Stephen Garcia: The South Carolina Gamecocks' True Team Leader

Taylor RobinsonCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2009

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 24:  Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates with teammate Darian Stewart #24 after a 16-10 vicotry over the Ole Miss Rebels during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 24, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

South Carolina’s win Thursday night against Ole Miss was certainly not a pretty one. I will be so bold as to speak for the rest of the Gamecock nation, though. We will take a win over the No. 4 Rebels however we can get it.

Gamecock fans and players alike have every reason to celebrate their victory. That game, and the resulting emotions, gave a whole new meaning to the word "chaos."

Now, the players have to turn around and get ready for next week because anyone who knows anything about football knows that what happened last week doesn’t matter.

This is, to me at least, part of the beauty of sports. What you did in the past is irrelevant.

If you played a perfect game last week, you still have to step up and prove yourself all over again. You don’t get to be prideful. If you played the worst game of your life last week, you get a chance to go back out there and show them what you can really do.

This is why I feel the need to write this as if it were a personal letter to Stephen Garcia.

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First of all, Stephen, you should be holding your head high. That is, if your neck isn’t broken after all of the hits you took.

The stats from Thursday night’s game say very little about the kind of performance you gave. Sixteen of 34 is not generally what you, or anyone, looks for in completion numbers. However, I will say that throwing for 220 yards in 16 completions is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

In a game that will go down in history as one of South Carolina’s biggest and best games ever, you demonstrated a tremendous amount of composure. This composure is what has increased my confidence in you as a quarterback and team leader.

You took a lot of hits from the Rebels, and you kept getting back up. That’s the kind of persistence that gets the rest of the team hyped up. That is what creates the kind of electricity that surged through the crowd at Williams-Brice on Thursday night.

Unfortunately, there were a few moments in the game when you looked absolutely drained.

Don’t misunderstand me; no one expects you to have a smile on your face or to be doing jumping jacks throughout the entire game. It’s just not possible. What I’m about to say is merely a preventative measure.

My point is that you should at no point in any game get down on yourself, which is, of course, easier said than done. Fans—me included—are always quick to jump on board when their team is winning games, but as soon as the going gets tough quarterbacks (especially) some of the most hated people in football.

I promise you, the fans will beat up on you enough, so don’t beat up on yourself. With this in mind, I have some advice for you.

My advice is to simply look at Ben Roethlisberger and the kind of player he is. People either love him or hate him, but either way there is no denying his confidence.

He has had some of the best numbers in football, and he has had some of the worst. At the beginning of each game, though, he goes in expecting that as long as he does his job his team will always have a chance to win the game.

If you, as only a sophomore, could gain some of that confidence, I truly believe you would be an unstoppable force.

Confidence isn’t the only reason for my recommendation, however. There are plenty of quarterbacks in the NFL to look to for that kind of example. My reason for picking Roethlisberger specifically, aside from personal preference, is that I am starting to pick up on a few parallels between the two of you.

You, like Roethlisberger, have a big arm. The amount of big plays you have created this season (too many of which have been called back) speaks volumes.

You are a playmaker; don’t hold back. I know that, to some extent, it’s up to the coaches to cut you loose and let you wreak havoc. However, within the constraints of what you can do, let me suggest going all out. I strongly believe it will pay off.

I also couldn’t help but notice the number of times you had to scrape yourself off the field Thursday night. Personally, I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that you were sacked only four times. It is unfortunate that you had to be leveled so many times after already getting rid of the ball.

Roethlisberger, too, knows what it’s like to view the football stadium from the ground looking up. Perhaps his perseverance could serve as inspiration to you. Just know that there is someone else out there, dragging himself off the grass, trying to turn around and make the next play a good one.

Each hit might feel like it is draining you, but remember that each time you pick yourself up and brush yourself off, you are gaining even more support from fans and completely re-energizing your teammates.

So, let me commend you, Stephen Garcia. Well done. You have stepped up and taken your place as the leader of this team.

Look to other players, whether it is Roethlisberger or someone else, to find the kind of inspiration that keeps you going. Because it seems like wherever you’re headed, that’s where Gamecock fans want to go, too.


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