CALGARY — Jeff Garcia is on his way to Calgary Wednesday where his football future will likely be decided.
No, the 40-year-old free agent isn’t here to talk contract with the Stampeders or join former teammate Dave Dickenson in the coaching ranks.
He’s here to speak at Thursday night’s University of Calgary Dinos Fifth Quarter Dinner at precisely the same time the NFL Draft gets underway. And by the time he finishes a speech that will touch on his improbable journey through two countries, seven teams and 16 years of pro football, the playing fate of the former Stamps quarterback may very well be sealed based on who drafts who down south.
“I definitely still want to play,? said Garcia from his home 30 minutes outside San Diego, where his wife and two kids decided a year ago to set down roots.
“There’s been some interest expressed from teams around the league, but I think a lot depends on the draft and whether certain teams make trades or stand pat. It’s just a matter of somebody pulling the trigger and offering me a contract. If anything happens, it should happen in the next week or two.?
One of the teams that has expressed interest is the Buffalo Bills — a possibility that has Garcia intrigued given the fact the team’s recently hired quarterback coach was Garcia’s offensive coordinator in Calgary in 1998.
“That’s definitely a possibility because George (Cortez) has that knowledge of me and what I’m capable of and what I can bring to a team,? said the four-time Pro Bowler and four-time CFL all-star, who said the rumoured possibility of signing with the New York Giants fizzled months back.
“There’s also been talk of returning to Philadelphia, where I could come in and help a young (Eagles) quarterback (Kevin Kolb). (The) St. Louis (Rams) expressed interest and are in a position where they’ll probably draft a quarterback, but they’ll need someone to step up and be a true starter.?
Garcia signed with the Oakland Raiders last year but asked for his release late in camp due to concerns he had about the team’s dysfunctional locker room and the prospect of backing up JaMarcus Russell. A Week 1 injury to Donovan McNabb led him to re-sign with the Eagles only to be released weeks later when Michael Vick was cleared to play. He spent the rest of the year hoping for another shot.
What the 650 people who will gather at Hotel Arts for the football fundraiser would most like to hear tomorrow is if Garcia would consider ending his pro career where it started — in Calgary.
“The thought has crossed my mind,? said Garcia, who took over Doug Flutie’s gig in 1995 and gave Henry Burris the nickname ‘Smilin’ Hank’ in ’98 before using Grey Cup MVP honours to sign with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“I would love to have the opportunity to return to Calgary and play in the CFL,? Garcia said. “I don’t know if it’s realistic, but it definitely would be tempting. I had a great experience there, and that game suits me.
“I couldn’t completely rule it out. I think I still remember that offence better than most I played under in the NFL.?
Ironically, it was an offence designed by current Stamps head coach John Hufnagel the first four years of Garcia’s career here.
That said he wouldn’t come here at the expense of his pal Burris, nor would he consider any other CFL offer.
While calling it “a very frustrating, empty feeling? to watch the NFL from afar last season, Garcia took solace in being able to spend time with daughter Presley, nearly two, and son Jason, nearly one. His wife, Carmella DeCesare of Playboy Playmate fame —with whom he’ll celebrate his third anniversary here today — is expecting their third child this fall.
“We’re building a football team,? joked the affable Garcia, who is also considering the possibility of a broadcasting or coaching career.
“If we got all the way to the NFL season and I was unsigned, I guess I’d need to see the writing on the wall and it would be best for me to appreciate what I’ve experienced and accomplished, move on to other parts of my life and not just continue to hang onto something that may not be a reality for me any more. If so, I will be ready to accept it.?
Until then, one of the grittiest players in Stamps history will continue battling the odds to try making something else happen, which has always been what he does bes