Garcia, Devil Dogs on track for return to the playoffs

by Levi Gilbert

The Morrilton Devil Dogs have seen a resurgence on the gridiron the past two years, and Gilberto Garcia is a big part of the reason why.

Morrilton's Gilberto Garcia. (Bill Patterson photo)

The senior doesn’t just anchor the Devil Dog offensive line; he is the anchor — the heart and soul of the trenches.

“Gilberto plays the game the right way,” Morrilton Coach Cody McNabb said. “He has great leadership qualities, works hard in everything he does and helps teammates any chance he gets.

“I think he will be the best lineman in the conference and one of the best in the state.”

Garcia (6-2, 255) is a towering presence on the field, and he has the credentials to go with his size — he’s the 2011 5A West Offensive Lineman of the Year. But it’s not just his on-the-field gifts that make Gilberto special. His legacy extends to inside the walls of Morrilton High, where he is the student council vice president, Spanish club president and a member of the math and science clubs.

“He’s a great kid and a good student,” McNabb said. “Everyone likes Gilberto.”

Garcia was nominated by McNabb for the 2012 501 Football Team — 20 players representing all 11 counties in the 501. The team boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field.

As good of a lineman as Garcia is, his football story actually began at quarterback.

“I was the quarterback in seventh grade, kind of by accident,” Garcia said. “One day in practice, coach said for the quarterbacks to stay here and everyone else go to the position they want to try out for, like offensive line and stuff like that. And I just wasn’t paying attention, and I got stuck with the quarterbacks and ended up being quarterback that year.

“I got too big for that pretty fast though.”

Garcia and the Devil Dogs (3-2, 2-1) are poised for a return trip to the playoffs this fall after a string of tough years that was ended by a successful 6-5 campaign in 2011.

“Last year was such a great memory,” Garcia said. “Making the playoffs for the first time in almost six years, that was a big turnaround for Morrilton.”

Garcia is a two-sport athlete for the Devil Dogs. In addition to football, Garcia is a three-year starter at keeper for the soccer team. But his focus after high school is strictly on football.

(Bill Patterson photo)

“Two players that I look up to are the Pouncy brothers from Florida,” Garcia said. “They both played on the offensive line, too, and both played center. They’re both now in the NFL. Center is probably what I’m going to play at the next level. I’ve been watching them a lot and trying to learn from everything they do.”

Garcia entertained interest from Arkansas Tech, Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas State and the University of Central Arkansas. Ultimately, he chose to stay in the 501 when he verbally committed to UCA.

“I love Morrilton and the 501,” Garcia said. “Everybody is so nice here. And I love the hunting! Ducks and fishing!”