By Rick Assad
There is something special to be said about a person who can play two high school sports at the varsity level.
Beside being good enough to make each squad, there is also the time spent on the practice field or in the gymnasium, then actually playing the games and also being a student in the classroom.
Being able to do all three are time consuming and takes a great deal of hard work along with a fulltime commitment and it’s going to result in sweat, triumphs and some setbacks, but it also means they are determined.
Nicholas Garcia did just that for Burroughs High, as the recent graduate toiled at quarterback for the football team in the fall for two seasons and was the point guard on the basketball squad in the winter for a couple of campaigns.
Each position that Garcia played entailed being the field or floor leader which can also be mentally draining.
Football is a real contact sport and because it is, can be tough physically on the body.
So let’s not kid ourselves, one has to be extremely tough to play the game.
While basketball isn’t generally considered a contact sport, it can be at times, especially under the boards battling for a rebound or trying to defend underneath the basket.
Garcia, who will attend Glendale Community College where he’ll play football, knew the challenges and welcomed them.
But like everyone else, though, Garcia and football this fall will be on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Both sports, when I’m having fun, I’m playing great, making smart reads,” said Garcia, who passed for 1,980 yards with 30 touchdown tosses, ran for 415 yards with seven scores and added 20 extra points in 2019. “When I’m not playing so well, the communication with my teammates or coaches may be off. So I would fix it.”
As the football field general and primary ball-handler for the basketball squad, Garcia was in charge.
“I feel that I was a leader in both sports. I feel that bond with my teammates on and off the field and can lead them in the right direction and I know they feel the same way,” said Garcia, who was named by the team as the Most Valuable Player. “That’s why they trust me to be their quarterback and point guard.”
Because no team wins all of its games, there are highs and lows, with the latter always requiring a cool head.
In 2019, the Burroughs football team began its season with five consecutive wins before losing four straight.
But in the final regular season match and a large throng at Memorial Field, the Indians, who went 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the Pacific League, pulled out an incredible 29-28 victory.
“The Burbank-Burroughs game this year was absolutely amazing,” Garcia said. “The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. The feeling when we won is indescribable. I will never forget that day.”
In 2018, the Indians football team struggled to a 2-8 record and a 2-5 mark in the league and was one in which Garcia was named Most Valuable Skills Player.
“When both sports went through a rough patch, I immediately hopped in and communicated with my teammates on how we can fix it,” Garcia said. “Communication is the key to winning. I will always believe in that.”
Football and basketball offered a different mindset for Garcia, who plans on transferring to UC Davis or Cal Poly Pomona.
“My mental approach for both sports was not the same,” Garcia said. “I went into football games with a set game plan knowing what to call and the different defenses I would see throughout the game. Basketball, the sport itself, is on the go. You must make different plays and be ready in a faster time.”
Garcia tried to make both sports fun for himself and his teammates.
“What I loved about football was being able to throw the ball to some of my best friends and having a party on the sideline every game,” he said, referring to when the Indians scored points. “Basketball I loved being around my friends and playing fast the whole time.”
The Indians had a successful hoops campaign during his senior season after posting a 19-10 record and 7-7 in league.
For his part, Garcia tossed in an average of about eight points and handed out roughly six assists per contest last season.
Burroughs defeated rival Burbank on the road 70-57, but lost at home 46-42 and was stymied on the road by St. Bonaventure 55-45 in a CIF Southern Section Division III-A opening-round match.
“Nick brought leadership to the basketball team and a certain tenacity to the team with his play,” Burroughs coach Allan Ellis said of Garcia. “Coming from football as a quarterback, our kids naturally followed his lead.”
In the previous season, the Indians went 11-16 in all games and posted a 4-10 mark in league and missed the playoffs.
The Indians did manage to beat the visiting Bulldogs 66-61, but lost to host Burbank, 83-49.
It’s impossible to succeed entirely, but Garcia, who was always willing to speak after a game and break it down during a postgame interview, was able to come away with enough wins and enough highs.
“My best asset for both sports is sharing the ball and my instinct,” he said. “I love setting up my teammates for success. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Garcia admitted that football came just a little bit easier than hoops. “I think playing basketball is harder than playing football,” he noted. “I just feel this way because football comes more natural to me.”
Though his high school athletic career is over, Garcia knows that he gave everything he had to offer and was willing to sacrifice his body.
“For football, I am most proud of leading my guys out every game at the best of my abilities, whether we won or lost,” he said. “I know I put my all in it. For basketball, I was most proud that I could set my guys up and have fun with them whether we won or lost.”
When Garcia reflects on his time at Burroughs, he is pleased and will carry fond memories of his time at the school.
“What I will remember most about playing two sports at Burroughs would be the practices would never stop,” he said. “I would always be playing one or another.”