From Maxim Athletic Athlete Jeff Garcia
To say that football has been a part of my life would be an understatement, it is my life and has been for 43 years. It's in my blood and it runs through my veins. I was born into football. My dad was a junior college football coach, my grandpa was a high school football coach, my uncles were football coaches. Football was more than just a job title to my family, it was the meaning of life. It all began with the innocence of playing in an open field at a park or in the neighborhood street in front of a friend's house. It led to Friday nights under the stadium lights at the Gilroy High School field where my friends and I would ascend to take on the opponent, a group of kids from another town, another school. We would meet on the grass field behind the south end zone. We had our own game of tackle football, while our idols, the 16,17, and 18 year old high schoolers, battled it out to the roar of the crowd. I dreamt of being in their shoes, all the while battling through my own bumps, bruises, a nail through my foot, and the triumphs and tribulations of a pickup football game amongst 7 to 12 year olds. Those were the best of times, innocent fun with a determined effort to stand out, to be a playmaker, to be a star amongst my peers. I was no ordinary kid, like I said before, football was my life.
Those memories were only the start of what would lead to the realization of a dream. I was that boy who idolized the players that played for my dad, I wanted to be like them and I wanted to play football for my dad one day. Little did I know, as I learned more about some of the heros of the game, that I would experience so much more than that. Yes, I did play for my dad and those were some of my greatest moments and life experiences related to the game of football. It would also be my greatest growth as a football player. Through my dad's tutelage, I learned what hard work and dedication were all about. I learned how to deal with adversity, how to overcome challenges, and how to fight my way to the top of the mountain. I grew into myself during that one year of football. I always had the mindset, I understood the game, I was passionate and fiery, I played the game with a lot of emotion and intensity, but my dad challenged me to mentally and physically better myself every single day. I matured, I grew, I got stronger and faster. It came through work on the field and in the weight room. I didn't want to let my dad down. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to help my team win. I wanted to bring out the best in me, the best in my teammates, the best in my team. Every effort had to be a maximum effort, failure was not a word that was understood nor accepted. I wanted a scholarship, football was a means to a better way of life.
I earned that scholarship. I left my dad proud of my accomplishments while playing for him. We won a lot of games, we won our bowl game, I was all conference, all state, all american, mvp of the bowl game, and a student athlete headed up the road to San Jose State on a full athletic scholarship. I would earn a degree in Business Marketing and we would win a lot of games. Another dream was becoming a reality, another goal was attained, one more step up the mountain. What would be my next accomplishment, my next moment of greatness? From not being drafted after a record breaking college career, to 18 years of professional football, Grey Cup Champion, Grey Cup MVP, 4 Time CFL All Star, 4 Time NFL Pro Bowl QB, and multiple division titles. They said that I wasn't tall enough, strong enough, fast enough, I wasn't this, I wasn't that. They wanted to place their limits on me, stack those walls in front of me, close those doors on me. I welcomed the challenge, I loved when someone said that I couldn't do something. I knew that I would battle my way through it, that I would overcome it, and that I would blow through those doors. All I needed was a crack, an opportunity, and to make sure that I prepared myself mentally and physically, to be the best in that moment.
Life is all about the journey and really taking advantage of the moment, the opportunity that is directly in front of you. I never looked too far ahead. I wanted to maximize the hours, minutes, and seconds that I was living in. I wanted to be the best QB on the field, to be the greatest leader, to be the best son, a better brother, a solid student. We are all challenged in different ways throughout our lives. How will we deal with the adversity and how will we find a way to win, not just on the field, but in life? Realizing the dream of playing professional football meant that I could plant my flag at the top of the mountain. I have never been satisfied with just being there, I have always wanted to be a difference maker. I wanted to be a champion in sport and in life, knowing that would require a tremendous amount of responsibility and fortitude.
So, why do I love football? The life lessons that have been taught, the moments and experiences that have been lived, and the friendships that have come along the way. I have never lost site of the fact that the game of football is still just that, a game, and that I am still that little boy, running around on that field, living out that childhood dream.
- Jeff Garcia