Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Former USC quarterback Stephen Garcia stood on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium Wednesday for the first time since he was dismissed from the football team last October.
Garcia was there for South Carolina's Pro Timing Day, a chance for Gamecock football players who are eligible for the NFL Draft to impress scouts.
"It's been a long time guys, huh?" he said to reporters after he worked out.
Last October, Garcia was dismissed from the team after violating team rules. Afterward, after his parents came to Columbia and helped him pack up his things, he went back to his hometown of Tampa, Florida, where he started training on his own for a potential NFL career.
He said the intervening months have given him a chance to clear his head and improve his body.
"Best I've ever felt, truthfully," Garcia said. "Back at home with my girlfriend and son. I feel healthy, I feel great."
During the course of the early afternoon, Garcia performed drills, ran the 40-yard dash, and threw passes to old teammates such as Alshon Jeffery. To someone who never knew what took place last season, it would have seemed as if nothing ever happened.
But not quite.
Garcia got into Columbia Sunday night, and said it was weird to see all the old sights in the town he called home for over four years. He said he's been pleasantly surprised by the support people who've seen him around the city have shown him.
"If nothing else I got a chance to see the guys again and say goodbye to a bunch of teachers and people that I didn't get to," he said.
Of course, Garcia was asked about October. He doesn't like to talk about that time; for him, it brings back memories he'd rather forget.
"Every time I think about it, it's upsetting, what happened, and the way it happened," he said.
When he was dismissed, media reports began to surface that he'd failed a substance test. Garcia confirmed Wednesday that it was for alcohol--not marijuana, as some reported.
He said the low point was the moment that USC Athletics Director Eric Hyman told him he was gone.
"That was pretty rough," he said. "I kinda blacked out toward the end, I didn't want to hear anything, I didn't want to see anybody," he said.
He admits when he got back home, he sulked a bit, and even put on a bit of weight.
"I looked in the mirror and said 'what the hell am I going to do now?'"
But soon, he decided the best idea was to get back to football. He's been training two to three times a day six days a week, and has dropped his weight from 245 pounds to 218.
He said he no longer drinks very much, and said giving up alcohol and changing his diet helped him slim down. Now, he's got to convince the NFL that's it's not just his body that's changed, it's his mindset.
"I just got to talk and get in front of as many scouts as I can and let them know me on a personal level, so that they can see I wasn't the monster that I was portrayed," Garcia says.
He said he's talked to about 30 NFL scouts so far during the evaluation process.
"This is a job and my future. I wish I would have realized that while at school, but it just took me a little long."
Garcia said he'll be in front of scouts again this Saturday up in Detroit.