HE'S RESILIENT and resolute, and with a last-minute drive against the Titans on Sunday, quarterback Jeff Garcia lifted his Buccaneers to 4--2. Six games in and the guy still hasn't thrown an interception or lost a fumble. At 37 Garcia has been through plenty in his football career—Cleveland and Detroit, for two things—yet five seasons after his Pro Bowl heyday with the 49ers he's behaving like the youngest Buc of all.
On hailing from Gilroy, Calif., garlic capital of the world
You smell it when you drive through—especially in summer when the factories are going. Pretty strong.
On his grandfather, Red Elder
He was a defensive back at Kansas State and played in the East-West Shrine Game in the '30s. He was also my driver's-ed instructor at Gilroy High. I must not have listened too well. I got a few tickets early on.
Meeting Jerry Rice in a bar
I was in college [San Jose State] and full of myself. I walked up and said I'd be throwing the ball to him one day. I'm sure it wasn't the first smart remark he heard from a fan, but it so happened that mine came true.
His five years with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders
After college I went to the CFL thinking it would be a stepping-stone for one or two seasons. I had a reality check. I wasn't going to be a starter or even the second-string QB but had to battle for third string. It's amazing the small window of opportunity you have in life. I had one quarter of one preseason game to prove myself and make the team. If I didn't, where would I be now?
On stepping in for injured Donovan McNabb and winning six straight games with the Eagles last year
It was a resurrection for me; it made football fun again after years in Cleveland and Detroit. I had the energy, the knowledge and guys who believed in me and in themselves. With that combination, great things can happen.
His wife, 2004 Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare
My season with the Browns was tough footballwise [2004; the team went 4--12], but the blessing was meeting my future wife. She's from outside of Cleveland. We were married last April in wine country.
On Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden
I'd always wanted to play for him—I admire his personality, his drive, his enthusiasm. We have the same approach and fire for the game. We've bonded over that.
Making an impression on coaches
I'm not the guy who's going to impress coaches with individual workouts. You need to watch my tapes—how I respond in the heat of the battle will tell you what I'm all about.
On being the Bucs' elder statesmen
We've got a couple older guys—Joey Galloway is chomping at my heels in the age department. When I connected with him and Ike Hilliard against the Saints, we had about 100 years of age there. We were the ones in the leather helmets distinguishing ourselves from everyone else.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL HEAPE
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (GARCIA ACTION)