FOOTBALL: Garcia audibles to UFL

FOOTBALL: Garcia audibles to UFL

At 40 years old, quarterback Jeff Garcia still wants to play.
And he will for the Omaha Nighthawks.

I have not signed a contract yet, but I have committed to them.
And this all just happened recently,

Garcia said Thursday.

It will be just a one-year contract for this season. I’m shaking
hands on this, I’m signing my name to it and giving them my
commitment for the entire season.

At 40 years old, quarterback Jeff Garcia still wants to play. And he will.

The Gilroy native who played at Gilroy High School and Gavilan College before going on to a Pro Bowl career with the San Francisco 49ers will don the uniform of the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League this fall.

“I have not signed a contract yet, but I have committed to them. And this all just happened recently,” Garcia said Thursday. “It will be just a one-year contract for this season. I’m shaking hands on this, I’m signing my name to it and giving them my commitment for the entire season.

“It’s an opportunity to share my skills and my leadership and my playing abilities with my teammates and the city of Omaha,” Garcia added.

Garcia said he made the decision to jump to the UFL as prospects for a return to the NFL dimmed in recent weeks.

“For a while there it wasn’t really an option. I was thinking that an NFL opportunity was going to happen.” Garcia said. “It was either sit around and twiddle my thumbs and wait for a call like I did last year, which was not a very successful thing. Or, go play some football and hopefully have a great experience and prove to myself and anybody else that wants to pay attention that I can still play the game at a high level.”

Garcia played in one game for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, and has been adamant about continuing his career. Rumors circulated that Garcia might return to the Eagles to back up first-year starter Kevin Kolb and his father, Bobby, a longtime football coach in Gilroy, confirmed that the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints had expressed interest.

But Garcia decided to take the snap in hand, rather than wait for an NFL option.

“Minnesota had called him and said ‘if (Brett) Favre doesn’t play are you ready to go?,'” Bobby Garcia said. “But, you know what? Favre is going to play.

“I said, ‘(the Nighthawks) really want you and are willing to make you one of the marquee players in the league.'”

Bobby Garcia, who said that the Nighthawks have already sold more season tickets than the entire league did last season, added that Jeff will report to camp next Thursday.

“(The fans) are really excited about the team,” Bobby said.

Formed in 2009, the UFL has five teams, Sacramento, Florida, Hartford, Las Vegas and Omaha.

“I’m fortunate to be in a place where I can make a difference, and that excites me,” Garcia said. “I just want to go out to Omaha and take advantage of a great opportunity and make the most out of my experience with a new team and a new league.”

He’ll join the likes of former NFL players Daunte Culpepper, Ahman Green, Brooks Bollinger and Tatum Bell among others, who have made the move to the UFL. The season spans eight games, beginning September 18. The Nighthawks begin the season September 24 against Hartford. Omaha plays at Sacramento November 13.

“There are definitely a lot of guys with NFL experience but for some reason aren’t given the opportunity or missed out on the opportunity,” Garcia said. “I think it’s going to be a very competitive league. Hopefully it makes for some exciting games and some great finishes and hopefully I’m a part of all the positive things that happen in the league.”

After graduating from Gilroy High and Gavilan, where he played for his dad, Garcia won acclaim at San Jose State but didn’t get an immediate shot at an NFL roster. He headed north to play three years for the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders where he led the Stampeders to a Grey Cup in 1998.

Garcia, praised since his San Jose State days by legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh, was signed by the San Francisco 49ers in 1998 where he took over for Steve Young three games into the 1999 season. The four-time pro bowler took the Niners to the playoffs twice in his five-plus seasons with the team.

Since his departure from San Francisco, Garcia has played for the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Eagles, leading both the Buccaneers (2007) and the Eagles (2006) to playoff wins.

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