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*** Youth football classic back for 35th year ***

Los Gatos Weekly Times, May 26, 2009

There's no doubt about it Jeff Garcia was an outstanding quarterback during his days at Gilroy High School.

Garcia was good enough, in fact, to go on to star at Gavilan College and San Jose State University before becoming an All-Pro with the San Francisco 49ers. And he's still active in the National Football League as a quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.

When Garcia played for the South all-stars in the 1988 Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Football Game in San Jose, though, his main contribution in the game was an interception.

Now, for a quarterback, that's not exactly something to brag about. For a defensive back, however, it's an entirely different story.

And that's where Garcia played in the all-star classic that summer in the defensive secondary.

It seems that Garcia was one of three quarterbacks selected to play for the South all-star team that summer. And little did he know going into the game that he would be the odd man out.

"They utilized more of a running style quarterback, and I was more of a drop-back passer," said Garcia in an interview a few summers back. "After a couple of days, they asked me if I could play another position. I told them I could play free safety, so I went over to the defensive side of the ball."

He played well enough that night that coaches from a couple of small colleges called him to see if wanted to play football for them in their defensive secondary.

Jeff Garcia, however, had other ideas. He went on from that game to become a successful collegiate quarterback and enjoy a stellar professional career that includes:

  • playing five seasons in the Canadian Football League, leading the Calgary Stampede to the Grey Cup championship in 1998 and winning the Grey Cup MVP award;
  • playing in the NFL for the 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers;
  • playing in two Pro Bowls, in 2002 and 2008; and signing with the Oakland Raiders for the 2009 season.

And all of that after his successful performance in the Wedemeyer All-Star Football Game ... as a defensive back.

2009 Summer Classic
Garcia is just one of the many players who went on to future glory after participating in the Silicon Valley Youth Classic, sponsored annually by the Almaden Rotary Club. And as the classic returns for a 35th time this summer, the question is who will be next future stars playing in the "Best Game in Town?"

The rosters for the 2009 all-star game have been released, and a talented crop of graduating high school seniors are set to play in this summer's classic.

Among the local players set to play for the North team in the summer game are Kyle Baumann, Brian Comstock, Jordan Dombrowsky, Spencer Havens and Chris La Bouff of Los Gatos; Ethan Cosgrove, Vince DiPiero, Tyler Pao, Ryan Stillwell, Ryan Valentine and Travis Velo of Leigh; and Cannon Bernarding of Westmont.

The local players join an impressive cast of former all-stars, many of whom went on to greatness following their participation in the summer all-star game.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards (Los Gatos/Stanford) is a former all-star who went on to turn pro, along with Jared Allen (Los Gatos/Minnesota Vikings), Nathan Jackson (Pioneer/Denver Broncos), Tully Banta-Cain (Fremont/49ers), Doug Cosbie (St. Francis/Dallas Cowboys), Don Schwartz (Mitty/St. Louis Cardinals), Jeff Toews (Del Mar/Miami Dolphins), Rich Campbell (Santa Teresa/Green Bay Packers), Greg Woodard (Silver Creek/Oakland Raiders), Ben Bennett (Peterson/Chicago Bears), John Faylor (Mitty/49ers), Erik Howard (Bellarmine/Giants and Randy Kirk (Bellarmine/49ers). Also included on that list are the late Pat Tillman (Leland/Arizona Cardinals), Carl Monroe (Overfelt/49ers) and John Tuggle (Independence/New York Giants).

Bill Haselman (Saratoga) and the late Ken Caminiti (Leigh) each played in the summer game, then went on to play baseball in the major leagues, and Millard Hampton (Silver Creek) was an all-star who went on to win an Olympic gold medal.

Rotary sponsorship
The Almaden Valley Rotary Club sponsors the football game each summer, with proceeds going to the Rotary charity and scholarship programs.

The summer classic is the brainchild of game chairman Jim Guido. The first game was played in the summer of 1974. With the exception of 1976,the game has been played every summer since, and Guido has been involved in everyone of the 34 games.

The players and coaches select for the 2009 game were invited to a banquet in their honor on May 18 at 300 San Jose. Jim Tomsula, defensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers, was the guest speaker.