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Stephen Garcia returns to SEC with gift of hindsight

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

If you see him now, it's like he never changed. Still the same long hair, still the same beard, and still the same ability to light up a room. Except now, he's a different man.

With time comes the gift of hindsight, and for former Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia, he's got plenty of it along with a host of life experiences many would kill to have had.

After all, who else can say they've played for coach Steve Spurrier and led South Carolina to an SEC East title? No one.

But Garcia's bad boy image put him on Spurrier's bad side more often than anything else, leading to seemingly endless quarterback controversies and benchings than the average person can count.

Still, South Carolina fans loved him. A gunslinger mentality and a ne'er-do-well attitude turned Garcia into the kind of rogue player Gamecocks fans got behind quickly.

They watched him rise to greatness against No. 1-ranked Alabama in 2010, but they also watched him fall just as quickly when he was kicked off the team the next year after his multiple last chances finally ran out.

Garcia is more than apologetic these days, saying what happened at South Carolina was his fault.

"It was my fault anyways because of being hard-headed, so I've gotta learn from my mistakes," said Garcia.

The 26-year-old is now a backup quarterback with the Tampa Bay Storm in the Arena Football League -- a far cry from the NFL, but it still gives him the opportunity of getting in the huddle just like in his South Carolina days.

He's also working with SEC blog Saturday Down South in an as-yet-to-be-determined capacity. Garcia actually got the job after a sit-down interview in the unlikeliest of places.

"We actually had the interview at the blackjack table at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, so right then I knew these guys were pretty cool and laid back, and I'm excited about it," said Garcia.

Garcia's new boss, Drew Roberts, says the former quarterback is the perfect match for his website.

"Garcia's sort of 'long hair, don't care' mentality, his Twitter handle is 'it is what it is,' those type of things are entertaining for us and it's what the fans enjoy," said Roberts.

New opportunities give Garcia the chance to reflect on his days at South Carolina and he has only one message to Gamecocks fans.

"Sorry for the heartaches," he said with a laugh, "but I appreciate everybody's support. I still get messages from Facebook and Twitter from fans. I really appreciate all the support."

He's even gotten support from Spurrier, who spoke to Garcia by telephone.

"I wish I could let you hear the voicemail from this morning," said Garcia. "He said, 'Yeah, you're one of these media guys now, huh?' So it's pretty funny. I'm looking forward to seeing him. It's been a while and everything's smoothed over, so I'm ready to see him."

Adding that "time heals everything," Garcia says he's also shared e-mails with the Head Ball Coach's wife, Jerri Spurrier.

But is there a chance the ex-QB could interview his old coach for his new gig?

"Maybe," he said with a smile. "I don't know. I don't know. Maybe not on camera -- just talk to him for a few times, but I don't know if I'll interview him."

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

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