No player ever wants to end his career being remembered more for what he did off the field than what he did on the field.
But in the end, I’m afraid that will be Stephen Garcia's legacy at South Carolina.
The fact that he even made it to this point is surprising on a lot of fronts. Five suspensions is a lot for any player, and Steve Spurrier isn’t known for his patience.
Even so, the university was willing to give Garcia one more shot if he could adhere to certain guidelines. One of those guidelines was that he not drink alcohol.
So when the drug test results came back this week showing alcohol and marijuana in his system, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Garcia was done.
There were those in and around the South Carolina program worried that something like this might happen after he was benched following the 16-13 loss to Auburn two weeks ago. It was a tough blow for the fifth-year senior, who simply hadn't thrown the ball with much confidence this season. No quarterback is going to keep his job very long when he throws four touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
The misnomer about Garcia is that he’s a malcontent who recklessly goes out looking for trouble. He’s really not that kind of guy.
If anything, he’s laid back and enjoys being one of the guys. Up until the very end, most of his teammates supported him.
He played hard, lived hard and partied hard, but didn’t always prepare and practice hard.
He certainly had his moments on the field and put up some respectable numbers: 7,597 career passing yards to go along with 47 touchdowns and 41 interceptions. He was 20-14 as a starter, and his finest hour came last season in the 35-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Alabama when he looked like he was finally on track to being the kind of quarterback you could trust on every play and in every game.
But that was just it with Garcia.
Every time you swore he was turning that proverbial corner, he’d do something to let you down.
He finished last season with five interceptions in his last two games, and in the last seven games he played in, he threw 14 interceptions.
There was the hotel incident with the girls in his room after curfew a few days before the bowl game last season. There was the incident at the life skills and leadership seminar this spring.
With Garcia, there were always incidents.
The frustrating part was that he competed hard on the field and was truly a warrior. He didn’t always play smart, but he never played scared.
His teammates respected him for that.
But his flimsy work ethic, his lack of focus and his inability to comprehend how he impacted everybody else around him in his role as the starting quarterback were all factors that ultimately led to his undoing.
Here’s hoping that Garcia, who already has his undergraduate degree, is able to conquer his demons and find some peace. He’s not a bad guy.
In some ways, the Gamecocks might be better off without Garcia, especially if he was just going to be watching from the sideline the rest of the season.
So in other words, Shaw better work on his sliding these next few games and not take a lot of unnecessary hits.
It would have been a feel-good story had Garcia come back, stayed on the straight and narrow, and led the Gamecocks to a big season.
He had a lot of people genuinely trying to help him.
What’s important now is that he commits to genuinely trying to help himself.