Hometown Report

Hometown Report: Garcia’s homecoming will have to wait as AFL coaching job awaits

A aron Garcia was ready for a homecoming to Del Paso Heights, where he would teach and coach at his alma mater, Grant High School.

He looked forward to watching his three children grow, including Gigi, a 6-foot-2 basketball forward at McClatchy, where she generates considerable recruiting interest. But football keeps seeping into Garcia’s life, and it’s hard to say no.

The most prolific passer in the history of professional football, over 19 dizzying seasons in the point-a-minute Arena Football League, Garcia will soon be named the coach for an expansion team in Las Vegas.

Garcia, an AFL icon, will have gone this spring from the LA KISS, owned by the 1970s rock band, to this new venture with more rock ’n’ roll connections. The Las Vegas team is owned by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, who will announce Garcia’s hiring in the coming days, along with the team name (Outlaws) and home arena.

“It’s exciting, and we’ll see how it goes,” Garcia said. “I’m ready for a new challenge. I loved playing. It’s not the way I wanted to go out as a player, on a team that struggled, but I’m happy with my career. I was really thinking about coming back to Grant, a place I love, but this is a great opportunity.”

At 44, Garcia defied age in a young man’s game, indoor or otherwise. He played at a high level for parts of four decades. Garcia was The Bee’s Player of the Year in 1987 when he set regional passing marks that stood for years. He played at Washington State and then Sacramento State. He had a tryout with the 49ers before finding his niche in Arena ball.

Garcia was third on a list of greatest players in the history of the AFL, and his 63,868 passing yards and 1,362 touchdown passes are records he cherishes along with winning ArenaBowl XXIV MVP honors in 2011 and earning AFL Offensive Player of the Year accolades in 2001 and 2011. Along the way, Garcia overcame a career-threatening injury in which a leg was so badly broken in two places, it took “six or seven surgeries” to repair and months to learn how to walk again.

The end was painful, too. Garcia was acquired by the LA KISS to inject hope, but the first-year franchise limped to a 3-15 record. Garcia and his team’s plight have been the subject of a reality TV series called “4th and Loud.”

Garcia has no head-coaching experience, though he has mentored quarterbacks at Grant. But if anyone understands the Arena game, it’s Garcia.

Shaq attack – Washington’s Shaq Thompson (Grant) earned Pacific-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors with a record-tying outing. He scored on a 36-yard interception return and a fumble return of 52 yards in a 44-19 rout of Illinois as the Huskies improved to 3-0.

The junior linebacker became the first Husky in 20 seasons to score on a fumble and interception return in one game. Thompson also was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Defensive Player of the Week. Already viewed by NFL draft pundits as a possible first-round pick, Thompson also scored on a 57-yard run as a running back earlier this season.

UCLA versatility Nate Iese (Sheldon) went to UCLA to play linebacker, was worked out at defensive end, had some sessions at tight end and is now a fullback. He might be the most versatile athlete on the Bruins’ roster. The sophomore caught Jerry Neuheisel’s first career touchdown pass in UCLA’s 20-17 win over Texas, helping the quarterback earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. Iese said fullback is a natural fit.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Iese played several positions in high school, including backup quarterback.

Butler did it – San Diego Chargers linebacker Donald Butler (Del Campo) was named a team captain for the second consecutive season and was instrumental in a win over Seattle on Sunday.

The Chargers moved up 12 spots in the third round of the 2010 draft to select the former Washington star, but his rookie season was wiped out by a torn left Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

Sample size James Sample (Grant, American River College) has finally healed after long bouts of shoulder issues to make a difference in the secondary for Louisville. The junior safety had a team-high eight tackles and an interception in a season-opening 31-13 win over Miami to earn co-Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Said Sample, ever loyal to his family and friends in Del Paso Heights: “I didn’t want to let a lot of people down back home.”

Virginia upset No. 21 Louisville 23-21 on Saturday. Sample had four tackles.

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