SEATTLE — He’d sold some pot. He’d broken into a few cars. Beaten up a few rival gang members, too. Juan Garcia had had some good times being bad. But it slowly dawned on him that two paths lay ahead. One ended in jail or worse. The other, according to vague whispers, twisted off toward a foggy place called opportunity.
Garcia isn’t sure what changed inside him and persuaded him to reject the gang lifestyle before his junior year of high school, then provided the necessary drive for him to become Washington’s All-Pac-10 center. He calls it more of a process than an event, much like the rehabilitation he’s undergoing in the hopes of returning to the field in 2008 after a severe foot injury put his career in jeopardy.
Juan Garcia has started 25 straight games for Washington.
Nothing in Garcia’s life has ever come easy. His comeback will be difficult, but not nearly as arduous as, say, announcing to a roomful of hard cases that he wants out of his hometown Yakima, Wash., gang.
“One day I went over to [a gang member’s house] and I said, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to gangbang. It’s not for me no more,'” Garcia said. “They were like, ‘You’re a little bitch. Yeah, whatever.’ And I go, ‘Naaah … I’m serious, even if I have to get jumped out, I don’t want none of this anymore.’ And then an older guy goes, ‘Get the [expletive] out of my house.'”