My Favorite Player (This Season): Stephen Garcia

Stephen Garcia
(Editor’s note: Yesterday, we kicked off “Favorites” week with Tom Perry talking about his favorite player of all time, Major Harris. Today, Michael Felder lets us in on the bro he’s rooting for in 2011.)

We’re running “Favorites” week here at The Crystal Ball Run, so I felt it only right to break out something that I’ve been saying for a long time on the Twitter machine, my favorite player for this season. Generally, I roll with a defensive back; last year it was Patrick Peterson, the Mr. Everything for the LSU Tigers. The year before it was Eric Berry, the quintessential safety for the Tennessee Volunteers. This year, while the defensive back crop is solid, there aren’t any players who really have me swooning the way those two did.

With that noted, I have been hunting for a guy to be “my guy” for this season. I thought I might go with Washaun Ealey, the Georgia running back, but he’s out of the running after transferring from the ‘Dawgs over some “differences” with the coaching staff. I have been a fan of his since that Brandon Spikes eye-gouging incident, where everyone caused a big stink. Ealey coolly replied, “We were just out there playing football.” He also contended that Spikes shouldn’t be suspended. He’s my kind of football player.

I’ve toyed around with the idea of anointing Ja’Juan Story as my newest guy after this incident, which truly touched my heart. Yes, that’s right, as a man that enjoys his fair share of Katy Perry, knowing that Story, an elite wide receiver out of Florida, is secure enough to admit he not only enjoys KP before games, but that he does it after a doodoo, has got him in my wheelhouse.

A big, physical receiver could definitely be the defense-terrorizing guy I might crown my favorite, but I sort of feel dirty crowning a kid who hasn’t played nary a college game yet.

So who is the guy this year?

Stephen Garcia.

Yes, that Stephen Garcia. The embattled Sakerlina quarterback. The oft-suspended Gamecock.

2011 is the Year of the Bro.

Stephen GarciaMy fondness for Garcia began when he was still being recruited in high school out of Tampa, Fla. Simply put, he was a guy who could ball. He ran guys over, ran past players and could really sling the football around the yard. He had a devil-may-care attitude to his game, and that’s the sort of fire that endears teammates to a guy. He was willing to put as much of himself on the line during a game as everyone else, and that goes a long way.

Garcia is poised to lead the Gamecocks to not only their second straight SEC East division title, but their second division title ever. While his pieces, most notably running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffrey, are bigger Heisman and pro prospects, Garcia is the duct tape for Steve Spurrier’s East championship machine.

Now, Stephen Garcia is not without his flaws. The kid’s been suspended different times for periods ranging from a week to the most recent “indefinite” suspension. It started in the spring of 2007, when he got popped for drunkenness and failure to stop for a cop, then moved to keying a professor’s car that same year. Then, Garcia moved on to getting an underage drinking ticket, compounded by pulling a dorm fire alarm and discharging a fire extinguisher. More recently, we’ve seen Stephen suspended for “violating team rules” during the week of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Then, Garcia was suspended indefinitely for showing up to an athletic department function drunk.

That’s his rap sheet. Those are the things that Stephen Garcia has gotten in trouble for at South Carolina. None are terribly egregious; although the keying the car thing was, um, very Carrie Underwood of him.

He has screwed up and, honestly, he’s got awful luck. No one ever caught the people who discharged the fire extinguishers or pulled the alarms in my dorm. I look at this laundry list of transgressions and see a dude who I probably would have been hanging out with had we been in school together. He’s a bro. He does bro stuff. He is quite bro-y.

However, don’t let this just be about Garcia off the field – the fact is that he’s my favorite player is because of the way he plays football. I’ve got a level of respect for how he attacks the game, and he has skills that most quarterbacks do not ever achieve. Sure, they can be better than Garcia. They can be technicians or inspirations or elite draft prospects or God’s gift to football, but very few are just football players. Garcia’s just a football player, who happens to be a pretty damn good quarterback.

Not only was last season the first SEC East title the ‘Cocks have won, but it was also the first time South Carolina has beaten the ‘Dawgs, the Vols, the Gators and Clemson all in one year. He’s also the kid who led them to a win over top-ranked Alabama in 2010. Garcia has been at the helm for some monumental moments for the Gamecocks, and this season could be the best of them all, as Sakerlina is positioned well to repeat as East champs.

It’s inconsequential whether you like him or not. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with Spurrier’s decision to keep him on the team. The kid isn’t going anywhere. He’s raised a little hell and he’s won a lot of meaningful ballgames for the Garnet and Black. But the real reason Garcia is going into 2011 as my favorite player is because his teammates love him and respect him. If they believe in him, then that is all the convincing I need.

Be sure to follow Michael on Twitter @InTheBleachers.

And be sure to follow Crystal Ball Run @CrystalBallRun.