CALGARY - When Jeff Garcia looks back on his career, he’s amazed at how it could have all gone ended during 15 minutes in Sacramento.
During the spring of 1994, the kid out of San Jose State was competing against Troy product Kelvin Simmons to be the third stringer — as the backup to Doug Flutie’s backup.
The two were neck-and-neck in Calgary Stampeders training camp, and were both going to get a quarter in a pre-season tilt against the ill-fated Sacramento Gold Miners.
“I don’t remember a lot of stats from my career, especially not from single games,” Garcia said. “That game, I believe I was 6-of-8 with two touchdown passes.
“When I went into the game, we were tied 14-14. We ended up winning 28-14. That’s what really clinched me making that team.
“Everything just fell into place after that.”
Eighteen years later, Garcia is going on the Stampeders Wall of Fame, while Simmons isn’t even a footnote in the team’s history.
In five seasons — only 31/2 as a starter — Garcia established himself as a star, leading the Stampeders to the 1998 Grey Cup victory before going on to be an NFL Pro Bowl pivot.
Coming out of college, Garcia couldn’t get a sniff from an NFL team, but once Flutie went and won games for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, CFLers were suddenly getting chances again.
Once Garcia went to the San Francisco 49ers in ’99, the Stamps were nothing but a memory, but if it wasn’t for them, who knows where Garcia would be now?
“When I was playing in Calgary, I thought it would be the only place I would play pro football,” Garcia said. “I had given up on the NFL opening their doors for me. I really didn’t care. I was having such a great time living (in Calgary).
“I had bought a house there. I had opened a restaurant. I loved the atmosphere Calgary presented.”
Although his more recent NFL job was just a few months ago with the Houston Texans, Garcia is now retired as a player.
But, if somebody called … “I can’t completely rule it out,” he said with a laugh.
“It would be very hard to say ‘no.’ I realize I’m a place in my life where trying to move the family even for two or four months is difficult.”
Garcia and wife Carmella DeCesare now have four children under the age of four — little Faith was born three months ago Monday — and the QB has moved into his post-playing career.
He now runs Beyond Wealth Sports, providing guidance and representation to athletes that need help making their way through the professional realm.
“I look at myself more as a life manager,” Garcia said. “I want to offer more than just getting a contract for a player.
“I want to prepare him for life after the sport and outside the sport. I use my personal experience of playing professional football for 18 years. I had personal ups and downs. There is so much I can share with the player today.”
Among the others going onto the Wall of Fame with Garcia is his former teammate Kelvin Anderson, the workhorse running back who had seven straight 1,000-yard seasons for the Stamps.
The inductees will be honoured Sept. 13 with a dinner and then again during halftime of the Stamps’ meeting with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It will be Garcia’s first visit to Calgary since 2010, when he was a guest speaker at the University of Calgary Dinos football fundraiser.
“I can’t wait for the family to witness it,” Garcia added. “It will be an exciting time for all of us.”
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