What Stephen Gar­cia told Ryan Hilin­ski about Game­cocks ... and life

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Sports - BY JOSH KENDALL jk­[email protected]­tate.com

While former South Carolina quar­ter­back Stephen Gar­cia is wait­ing to see how his Al­liance of Amer­i­can foot­ball ca­reer is go­ing to play out, he has taken some time pass along ad­vice to fu­ture South Carolina quar­ter­back Ryan Hilin­ski.

Gar­cia, the third-lead­ing passer in Game­cocks his­tory, and Hilin­ski, the four-star prospect who plans to join the team in Jan­uary, started a re­la­tion­ship when Gar­cia con­tacted Hilin­ski via Twit­ter. The young quar­ter­back was ea­ger to chat, Gar­cia said.

“I just tweeted at him and said, ‘I’m ex­cited for you to join the fra­ter­nity,’” Gar­cia said. “I think your char­ac­ter and your off-the-field stuff is awe­some, and I’m pulling for you.”

Hilin­ski im­me­di­ately re­sponded, and the two have traded phone num­bers and text mes­sages since. On Tues­day, Hilin­ski tweeted, “Noth­ing hy­pes me up more than con­ver­sa­tions with @StephenGar­cia! Time to re­peat his­tory.”

Like Hilin­ski, Gar­cia was a high-pro­file re­cruit who fans ex­pected to sweep into town and be a star right away. Gar­cia is hope­ful that Hilin­ski is bet­ter pre­pared for that pres­sure than he was, which is one of the rea­sons he reached out, he said.

“I can’t tell you ex­actly what I said be­cause there were a few cuss words in­volved, but ba­si­cally it was, ‘Go in there with the ut­most con­fi­dence and like you own the build­ing and be ready to rock and roll,’” Gar­cia said. “With a few more cuss words I said, ‘Stay the hell out

of Five Points.’”

That’s where he was ar­rested for drunk­en­ness in Fe­bru­ary 2007, shortly after en­rolling early.

Gar­cia won 20 games at South Carolina and threw for 7,597 yards. He led the Game­cocks to their only SEC East ti­tle but was dis­missed from the team in 2011.

“I told (Hilin­ski), ‘You’re a big fish in a small pond right now, and when you get to town, it’s even a smaller fish bowl,’” Gar­cia said. “You have to be aware that ev­ery­body is watch­ing you. That’s one thing I wish I had un­der­stood when I first got there. You can’t get away with the stuff reg­u­lar col­lege guys do. You have all eyes on you.”

Hilin­ski, 6-4, 237 pounds, threw for more than 8,000 yards as a three-year high school starter at Or­ange Lutheran High School in Or­ange, Calif.

“I think the star rat­ings are full of it, to be quite frank with you, but watch­ing him play I think he’s def­i­nitely a guy who is le­git wor­thy of be­ing a five-star,” Gar­cia said. “Ob­vi­ously he’s a big­name guy. That’s huge for South Carolina and Coach (Will) Muschamp.”

Gar­cia said Game­cocks quar­ter­backs coach Dan Werner will be good for Hilin­ski’s devel­op­ment. Werner was the first col­le­giate coach to of­fer Gar­cia a schol­ar­ship, Gar­cia said.

“He was the quar­ter­backs coach at Mi­ami, and he came up to Tampa when I was a fresh­man, and he said, ‘You have a place at Mi­ami if you want it,’” Gar­cia said. “That was pretty cool. I’ve tried to stay in touch with him since then.”

Gar­cia’s foot­ball ca­reer may con­tinue next year with the AAF. He is on the ros­ter of the Birm­ing­ham Iron but hopes to join the Or­lando Apol­los and be re­united with Apol­los head coach Steve Spurrier. The AAF is an eight-team pro­fes­sional league that will play a 10-game sched­ule start­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

“I’m try­ing to fig­ure out what is hap­pen­ing. I don’t know,” he said. “I’m pre­par­ing for it. I was telling Coach Spurrier I am go­ing to stay ready re­gard­less. I feel as good as I ever have. As far as phys­i­cal shape, I feel freak­ing awe­some. My arm is as strong as it’s ever been.”

TIM DO­MINICK tdo­[email protected]­tate.com

Former South Carolina quar­ter­back Stephen Gar­cia works with young as­pir­ing quar­ter­backs in De­cem­ber 2017.

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