Jeff Garcia got a lot done in a hurry during his time with the Calgary Stampeders.
Though he was only a member of the Red and White for five years and a starter for three-and-a-half seasons, the quarterback from California nevertheless ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in both passing and rushing. Garcia put together some of the finest seasons of any Canadian Football League quarterback and capped his stint in Calgary with an MVP performance in the Stamps’ 1998 Grey Cup victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Garcia’s talent, toughness and take-charge attitude won him many fans and friends during his time in Calgary. His penchant for speaking highly of his first professional home after he moved on an all-pro career in the National Football League only further endeared him to Calgarians.
“I love the city and I love the people,” said Garcia. “I always have. I’ve always enjoyed coming back and I look forward to being there in September.”
September is when Garcia along with Kelvin Anderson, Rudy Linterman, Gerry Shaw along with builders Normie Kwong and Sig Gutsche will be added to the Stampeders’ Wall of Fame.
“I’m really honoured,” said Garcia. “I have so many great memories of the great times that I had and the great friends that I made in Calgary. We had so many great players on those teams — Allen Pitts, Dave Sapunjis, Vince Danielsen, Terry Vaughn, Peewee Smith. And all the big guys on the offensive line — Jamie Crysdale, Rocco Romano, Bruce Covernton and the Greeks — Bobby Pandelidis and Denny Chronopoulos. All the players and so many, many more that I’ll always remember.”
Garcia went on to star in the NFL, most notably with the San Francisco 49ers, and he was even in uniform in 2011 as the injury-depleted Houston Texans signed him to serve as a mentor and backup for rookie T.J. Yates. His time with the Stampeders, however, will always remain special to him.
“That camaraderie we had in the locker-room with the Stampeders was something else,” he said. “It’s something that was never matched on any of the teams I played with in the NFL. It was a special team and a special group of guys.
“About the only negative about the entire experience is that we should have won more championships than we did.”
Garcia was part of an unprecedented run of quarterbacks in Cowtown as, within a span of seven years, Doug Flutie, Garcia, Dave Dickenson and Henry Burris all joined the Stampeders.
Flutie was heading into the third of what would be three consecutive Most Outstanding Player seasons for the Stamps when Garcia — fresh out of San Jose State — made the club as the No. 3 quarterback.
“I was one play away from not making the team at all,” said Garcia.
The following season, an injury to Flutie opened the door for Garcia to take over the starting job. He won a road game against the Birmingham Barracudas — remember them? — in his first start and then, in his first home-field assignment as the No. 1 man, turned in a performance for the ages. He threw for 546 yards and a team-record six touchdowns to lead the Stamps past Edmonton in the Labour Day Classic.
“For the entire team, it was just one of those days where everything we touched turned to gold,” remembered Garcia. “It was a very special day because my father and brother were in the stands and I know how much that rivalry with the Eskimos means to the people of Calgary.”
The pinnacle and final chapter of Garcia’s Stampeders career came with the Grey Cup championship in 1998. That same year, former teammate Flutie — after eight exceptional CFL seasons — returned to the U.S. and was starring for the Buffalo Bills.
“I owe a lot to Doug,” said Garcia. “His play with Buffalo when he returned to the NFL opened a lot of eyes and opened the door for guys like me to get their chance south of the border.”
The emergency call from the Texans notwithstanding, Garcia is now focused on the next chapter in his life. He works an advisor for professional athletes, offering financial, legal and lifestyle advice.
“To me, that’s something that’s lacking right now in professional sports,” he said. “In my 18 years of professional football, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of what it takes to be a success off the field as well as on the field.”
|Upcoming Games||View full schedule|
|Fri 14/06/13||BC||Calgary||Fri 7:00 pm MDT|
|Thu 20/06/13||Calgary||Saskatchewan||Thu 8:00 pm MDT|
|Fri 28/06/13||BC||Calgary||Fri 8:00 pm MDT|
|Fri 05/07/13||Calgary||Saskatchewan||Fri 7:00 pm MDT|
|Fri 12/07/13||Calgary||Montreal||Fri 5:30 pm MDT|