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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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December 7, 2007 12:51 PM

Garcia on his decision to return

Posted by Bob Condotta

Talked to Washington center Juan Garcia today about his decision to return to the Huskies for a sixth season.

It's a big boost for UW's offensive line, which will now have four of five starters returning next season led by Garcia, who was named to the All-Pac-10 second team this season.

He said he didn't make up his mind until Thursday when he read the newspaper accounts of the decision retain coach Tyrone Willingham. Garcia could have decided to leave and enter the NFL Draft but instead will return for a sixth season.

"I put a lot of thought into it and I wasn't really sure,'' he said. "Then I had made up my mind that if coach Willingham wasn't coming back then I wasn't coming back. I was going to take my chances. But when I heard coach Willingham was coming back and especially (offensive line) Coach (Mike) Denbrock, I decided to come back.

"I wasn't going to go through a whole new coaching change and all that crap. If he was gone, then I was gone, too. I still wasn't sure until I read in the paper that he was coming back and I said 'you know what? If he's coming back, then I'm coming back.'''

Garcia said he talked to Willingham for about an hour on Thursday to affirm his return to the Huskies for next season.

"It's in the best of my interests,'' he said. "And it's like the O-line is still young. They need me, I need them, so it works out good for both sides.''

Garcia said the situation weighed heavily on his mind the last three weeks, saying it kept him up at nights.

"The last three weeks, I just couldn't go to sleep,'' he said. "I was confused. Like I had the chance I always wanted, a shot at the NFL. After that, I can live life knowing either I'm good enough or I'm not. I don't want to be one of those guys saying 'I could have done this.' I would have had my shot. But now I'll come back next year and see what happens.''

Garcia said the way the season ended, with a 4-9 record and losses to WSU and Hawaii, only confused the issue.

"I didn't want to leave it like that,'' he said.

Garcia also said he had been invited to the Hula Bowl All-Star Game in Honolulu next month.

"Being in Hawaii, that place is heaven,'' he said. "I was over there thinking 'I could come back here for five days, all expenses paid, and all I have to do is say yes.' But if everything goes good, I'll be back in Hawaii next year. But that was kind of hard, the way the weather was. It was tempting, but. ....''

As a player with a sixth year of eligibility, Garcia could have waited a while to make his decision. But he said he decided to get it over with once the news broke that Willingham would return. He was on campus Friday trying to get some academic stuff worked out for next quarter.

Garcia said criticism of Willingham is off-base.

"Its not coach Willingham's fault,'' he said. "He has brought back the fight in us, and I talked to him about that and thanked him for that. I said he is the reason we have our fight back. I told him 'we haven't won many games and people are doubting you but that you are a great coach.' I said 'next year when we are winning and everything is good again and everybody is patting your back and saying how good you are, we have to remember this day when everybody doubted us, doubted the Huskies, and doubted you.' So if you are one of the people doubting us, watch out because we have a good team coming back next year.

"You look at this year, we either beat ourselves or we just didn't make the plays. Other years, we got ran through and it was just bad being a Husky. There is no good thing in losing, but at least you can say you lost with pride. Other years we would lose and your manhood would be taken away.''

Garcia said another key in making his decision to stay was the blessing of his mother, a native of Mexico who settled in Yakima where she has spent years picking fruit.

"I told her 'Mom, I want to buy you a house and if I come back I may get injured and not have that opportunity,''' Garcia said. "And she said 'I don't care about that. I want you to be happy. Just hearing that, it was like God will take care of everything so if it's meant for me to play at the next level and do that I'll play at the next level and if I get hurt, it's for a reason. Just to hear my mom say 'I want you to be happy,' she knows how much stress I've been through that meant a lot to me.''

One last push to stay, Garcia said, was all that he heard from fans saying "one more year.'' One fan sent him a letter imploring him to stay, he said.

"From every angle I got it --- we need you one more year --- so that just made me feel appreciated,'' he said.

Garcia said now he is only looking to next season when he thinks the UW could have one of its best lines in years.

"I can leave here saying I played with one of the greatest O lines in school history, or even in the Pac-10,'' he said. "I don't care how much money is out there. That's something I can always remember for the rest of my life.''

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