By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
He was Joey when he left Clovis. Now, he’s just plain Joe.
But Joe Garcia is certainly no ordinary Joe as far as the Texas Tech Red Raiders are concerned. Expected to be one of the leaders this year for Tech’s defense at strong safety, the 6-foot-1 inch, 222-pound senior is also having to juggle thoughts of potentially playing in the NFL as his senior season begins.
Some think the former Clovis High standout has the ability to play in the NFL.
According to one Web site, scout.com, Garcia is a “mid-round draft caliber” player who “hits like a ton of bricks.”
Onlookers have seen that hitting ability since Joe wore purple-and-white at CHS.
“He will be looked at, by everybody, because he’s a contact player,” said Carlos Mainord, Texas Tech’s safeties coach, of Garcia’s chances to get drafted. “But, who knows? A lot of things go into that.
“I think Joe’s done real well. He’s a real studious guy and takes both his classwork and football work seriously. Like most young players have to, he had to spend a couple of years on the bench, playing special teams — that’s just college football. But he didn’t waste it. He learned and got better, so when he got a chance to play last year, he was ready to play.”
Garcia is a fifth-year senior majoring in computer science and engineering.
“I never look too far into the future, you know,” Garcia said. “I just really want to help the team out right now.
“My biggest goal is to help win some games for Texas Tech. Hopefully, that will help me in preparing me for my future — if it’s preparing for the combines, if it’s preparing for the NFL, or if it’s to go to school and get my master’s in business.”
Garcia thinks the Red Raiders have the potential to contend in the Big 12.
“We lost a lot of our good receivers, a lot of good talent, but I think we have a lot of young guys that can replace that talent,” he said. “I think we’re going to turn a lot of heads in the Big 12.”
Garcia knows he’ll be looked at for senior leadership from the coaches and younger players. It’s a responsibility he’s not shrinking away from.
“I feel I can handle the job,” said Garcia, who in his first year as a starter in 2006 was second on the team with 87 tackles. “There’s going to be pressure, but that comes along with being a leader. I feel I can handle the job.”
As a sophomore at Clovis, Garcia was teammates with second-year Philadelphia Eagles receiver Hank Baskett on the Wildcats’ football, basketball and track teams in 2000-01.
“Actually, he came down before he flew out to Philadelphia,” Garcia said. “He flew out of Lubbock and he called me, so I went and met up with him.
“It was pretty neat seeing him. I’m glad he’s doing really well — he’s worked hard for it.”
As far as advice for making the pros, Baskett’s philosophy seems to match Garcia’s for the moment.
“Basically, he just said to keep doing what I was doing,” Garcia said. “That’s pretty cool, coming from him, because he’s already there.”