tampabay.com

Garcia's dad speaks out on QB's troubles

While not making light of his son's actions, Gary Garcia says a harsh college spotlight at South Carolina weighs on the ex-Jefferson star.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 7, 2007


Gary and Debbie Garcia, parents of South Carolina freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia, are, as Gary said Monday evening, "Distraught, frustrated and confused."

Gary spoke from a hotel room in Columbia, S.C., where he has been since flying from Tampa on Saturday when Stephen was arrested for the second time in less than three weeks.

The first arrest was for drunkenness on Feb. 17 after an altercation in Columbia's nightclub district; the second came Saturday after being accused of keying the car of a professor, Adam Biggs.

On Tuesday USC coach Steve Spurrier released a statement saying Garcia would not participate in any spring practices, but would be "expected to go to class and study hall."

This came a day after Stephen released a statement saying he was sorry for all the events, he accepted full responsibility and he hoped Biggs, Spurrier and his teammates would accept his sincerest apologies.

It was enough to make Gary's heart seize.

"This is so uncharacteristic of Stephen it's amazing," Gary said. "My mind has been blown because I never, ever expected anything like this."

Gary went on to say the problem might stem from Stephen's naivete surrounding the media pressure of big-time college football.

"He was a pretty big deal in Tampa (finishing 2006 as the bay area's all-time leading passer with 8,018 yards and 83 touchdowns), but this is a whole different world," Gary said. "Everything you do when you're in Stephen's position is magnified a million times. It makes all this that much more difficult to deal with."

Gary said he believed the fact Stephen graduated early and enrolled at South Carolina in January has nothing to do with his current troubles. Now Gary said his plan is to be there for his son. To offer advice. And to make no excuses.

"I can't explain it," Gary said. "But I know this: Stephen has taken responsibility for his actions and has said he will do everything to learn from this and become a better person. I believe that he will do that. I really do."