Troy’s Blind Side

Troy University Senior OT Antonio Garcia #53

The Troy Trojans gave the Clemson Tigers all they could handle last Saturday in Death Valley. Seeing as Clemson was the national runner-up last season, no one gave the Trojans a chance. The spread before the game had the Tigers, the number two team in the nation, winning by 35 points, a steep margin to overcome for any team. The Trojans, however, didn’t get the memo. They not only beat the spread, but nearly came up with what would have been the biggest win in school history.

Troy jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and went into halftime only trailing by a field goal, 13-10. College football analysts couldn’t believe what was happening and people around the country were getting upset alerts throughout the game. After 60 minutes of physical football, Clemson was able to survive and come out with a 30-24 victory.

The Tigers did not execute their game plan and seemed unprepared for the Trojans on both sides of the ball. They did not expect a small school from the Sun Belt Conference to play with so much grit and focus. Troy relied on the leadership of senior offensive tackle, Antonio Garcia, who has played against ranked teams such as #13 Georgia in 2014 and #24 Wisconsin in 2015. Before the season kicked off, Antonio spoke with us about his preparation for playing a big school like Clemson.

I treat every game with the same preparation. I try to focus on being the best player I can be. I don’t try and focus on who I’m playing against, I just think about my job, my assignment and what we need to do to win”

Garcia’s ability to block out the hype of the Clemson defense and focus on his job, helping the Trojans rack up 386 yards of total offense on a program that is stacked with future NFL players. From 2010-2016 the Clemson Tigers have had 38 players drafted into the NFL, including a school high nine players this past April. This season, the Tigers have just as much talent and size, but only out gained Troy by 28 yards of total offense.

Troy may have lost last week, but the way they played against one of the nation’s best teams is encouraging for the rest of the season. The Trojans would like to return to the glory days when they were winning conference championships and producing NFL players. Troy won 5 straight Sun Belt titles from 2006-2010 and their players were gaining a lot of attention from NFL scouts. If Troy can compete for another conference title, it definitely will improve Antonio Garcia’s odds of playing on Sunday’s.

Garcia already has NFL size and agility, but it’s his durability that really makes him standout. Antonio has started 26 consecutive games going into tonight’s matchup with Southern Mississippi. He started the first six games of his redshirt freshman season but suffered an injury that required season ending microfracture surgery. After a healthy recovery the 6’7’’ 302 pound OT started the opening game his sophomore year and hasn’t missed a start since.

My goal from the beginning was to become a four-year starter. So when I redshirted, every day I would go in the weight room thinking about working hard, gaining weight and trying to achieve that goal and so far that’s what I’ve done.”

Last season Garcia logged over 780 snaps, allowed only three sacks and graded over 90% in five games. He’s been an iron man for the Troy Trojans and people outside of the Sun Belt Conference have started to take notice. Antonio was put on the pre-season Outland Trophy watch list along with 69 other standout interior linemen. He’s played solid in the first three games this season and credits his performance and longevity to the way he trains in the off-season.

I do a lot of long distance running and what I try to focus on is flexibility and stretching. It definitely helps a lot with reducing my muscle soreness and preventing injuries.”

Garcia has really blossomed into an incredible football player that anyone in the nation would love to have on their squad. He wouldn’t be where he is today without the influence of his friends and coaches from Charles Drew High School back in his hometown of Riverdale, GA. Antonio was mainly a basketball player until his friends talked him into playing football for the first time during his sophomore year of high school. Antonio loved the physical nature of the sport and quit basketball after his coaches told him the odds of getting an athletic scholarship were greater through football.

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The gamble paid off and Garcia finished his senior year of high school as an All-State football player with 5 scholarship offers. Troy University was a perfect match for Antonio, and he’s very grateful for the opportunity the Trojan football program has given him. When head coach Larry Blakeny retired at the end of the 2014 season transferring out of Troy never crossed Antonio’s mind.

I truly appreciate Troy and everything this school has done for me and I wanted to finish my playing career here. Our goal this season is to win the Sun Belt and go bowling.”

Antonio Garcia and the Trojans can increase their bowl odds with a victory over Southern Mississippi tonight in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are favored by 10.5 points and come into tonight’s match-up 2-0 including a win over Kentucky. It should be interesting to see if Troy can match the same intensity they displayed last week vs Clemson. Win or lose this game will be a good tune up for Troy as they start conference play next week.

We will follow Antonio Garcia and the Troy Trojans throughout the 2016 season and possibly the NFL draft.

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