Everyday Champion -- Carlos Garcia
He’s not a student-athlete, but this week’s Everyday Champion is a role model that many look up to. He’s been nominated for the NCAA Courage Award, featured in The Oregonian and on FSN NW’s Beavers All-Access series. He is Carlos Garcia, a junior majoring in exercise and sport science, who serves as the head student manager for the
Garcia was one of six individuals to be presented the prestigious Governor’s Youth Award Monday (Nov. 20) by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski at the DoubleTree Hotel at
The following is a feature was written by Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian and was included in the Oct. 23, 2006 edition:
By Rachel Bachman
Carlos Garcia rests a duffel bag stuffed with footballs in the grass and reaches inside it.
"Pick me a winner, Bobby," he says, grinning.
Garcia is slight compared with the football players around him:
5-foot-8 with sweatpants pooling at his ankles. But he is no mascot.
Garcia, 20, is the football team's head student manager, the master of practice minutiae.
He jokes and tosses passes with the quarterbacks. He places pylons for drills. When it begins to rain on an end-of-practice scrimmage, Garcia tucks a football under his shirt for shelter then places it on the line. He dashes on and off between plays, subtle but essential as a cursor on a screen.
Football coaches preach diligence and attention to detail, but Garcia lives it. He coordinates everything from setting the clock at practices to scrubbing grass stains out of jerseys. Yet he will never wear a uniform or hear his name announced at a game.
The players know Garcia. But few of them know his past. They don't know that Garcia's appreciation for this team and its support staff grew from coping with poverty and loss, and that his joy comes from a mother who had so little but gave so much.
Visiting teams' football helmets bejewel a row of metal lockers.
Garcia sits amid a grounded flock of black
Team managers are the sherpas of college football. When something needs to be laundered, packed, fetched, stowed or repaired, chances are it will pass through one of their hands. Perhaps their most important job in this violent sport is maintaining the helmets' hardware and cushioning.
"That was a good cut on that one," Garcia says, lifting the helmet of OSU tailback Yvenson Bernard to show a wide scrape to fellow manager Kelly Rompel. "See that one?
" 'Ev' has been known to mess up his share of helmets."
Garcia, a junior majoring in exercise and sport science, has shining hazel eyes and a baby face interrupted by a swath of chin hair. He is wise beyond his years, as comfortable on the city bus (he never got a driver's license) as he is speaking to a room of businesspeople. He loves the college-student pastimes of hanging out with friends and playing video games but says he doesn't drink or do drugs.
Garcia sings along with the Rascal Flatts song "Me and My Gang,"
prompting a quip from fellow manager Jake Hockett : "Don't quit your day job."
But Garcia wouldn't. He loves it.
It doesn't matter that, upon finishing the laundry after a football road trip, he barely reaches his apartment for a few winks before it's time to return to the equipment room. No matter that he has to ask 300-pound linemen for their sweaty jerseys right after they lose a game.
No matter that Garcia puts in seven days and about 50 hours per week as head manager, receiving textbooks, meals and a $1,000 stipend each term.
He has the "greatest bosses in the world" --football equipment directors Steve McCoy and Arnold Alcantar, also Garcia's roommate. He gets to be around one of his favorite sports (he also loves playing basketball and watching golf, sometimes with
"It seems like every workplace I've been at," he said, "I pick up a new family."
Garcia's family came from the
Garcia's parents, Patricia and Carlos Sr., battled drug addiction, and his father drank heavily. When Carlos was in grade school, doctors told his father that alcohol was killing him.
Surely he would stop now, Carlos remembered thinking. Not long after that, his father pulled into a grocery store.
"I remember my dad coming out to the car with a beer, and I could not stop crying," Garcia recalled. Carlos Sr. looked at his distraught son.
"He set the beer outside of the car and we drove away."
Garcia's mom kept the family going even when Carlos Sr. became so ill with cirrhosis he moved into an assisted-living facility, where he would live the rest of his life. Fearing the influence of crime and gangs on her children, Patricia moved them to
Patricia sought help from her church and public agencies, finding everything from a Thanksgiving turkey to a used car. Despite how little she had, she was "the Kool-Aid mom," Carlos' brother Ricky said, always welcoming friends and neighbors.
Through sheer will, she made magical things happen. When the family car broke down the day Garcia's ninth-grade class at
"My mom called the school and got the bus to come pick me up," he said, "just so I could go."
Patricia connected Carlos with the nonprofit Community Service Consortium, which gave him a paid internship to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis.
There, he did everything from helping kids with homework to refereeing basketball games. He and Ricky had many of the same friends at Corvallis High, and they would play pickup games. To Carlos, sports meant duty, camaraderie --all the things he craved.
By the middle of high school, Garcia's initial shyness had melted and he was president of a Boys & Girls Club service club for teens, recalled Jason Yutzie, who ran the
But just as Garcia was blossoming, even adjusting to
His father was dead.
Ricky and Carlos stayed in
Yet Garcia continued to shine. He excelled at math, taking calculus in high school, and won the Corvallis Boys & Girls Club's youth of the year award. He won the statewide award, too.
Meanwhile, his mother was nearly immobile from a staph infection in a leg. Garcia and his brothers would fix meals, clean up and make sure bills were paid. He remembers taking the bus to downtown
"With my parents being disabled, it made it a little easier for us to get ready for the real world," Garcia said.
Garcia was about to become the first in his family to graduate from high school. He had been accepted to
In attendance that day was Karen Stansbury, wife of OSU associate athletic director Todd Stansbury. Karen was so impressed with Garcia that she told McCoy about him.
"He was one of the most professional young men I'd ever interviewed,"
But just as Carlos' young life was cresting, his mother faltered. She grew so ill that doctors recommended hospice.
Two weeks before Carlos' high school graduation, she died.
He was the only one of her children to speak at the funeral. For a month afterward, he, his older brother Josh, and Ricky cleaned out their house and tried to explain to utility companies why their mother couldn't cancel service herself.
"Every moment of every day," Garcia said, "I wish I could call her."
Her spirit lives. Ricky, a 19-year-old sophomore, followed Carlos to
When Carlos selects a ragged practice ball for
"I'm physically healthy," Garcia said. "I can run, and a lot of people can't do that. A lot of people were born with diseases."
Best of all, he said, "I got to know my mom and dad."