When former Carolina Panther Frank Garcia started doing a local radio show about 14 years ago, he admits he wasn't very good.
"I started with (another former Panther) Brentson Buckner, and we were god-awful," Garcia said. "And I knew we were."
But Garcia stuck with his radio gig and eventually found his legs. On Monday, the nine-year NFL veteran began working in the coveted afternoon drive slot at WFNZ, with his "Garcia & Bailey" show swapping places with Chris Kroeger's "Prime Time."
Kroeger's show was renamed "Kroeger in the Midday" and will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. "The Mac Attack" with Chris McClain remains in its 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. slot at the station.
The change was bittersweet for Garcia, who has now risen to a kind of local pinnacle in his profession. He's proud of his journey in radio, but it means he'll have to pull back on something else he loves just as much: coaching high school football.
Garcia has been an assistant coach at Charlotte Catholic since 2004.
He's helped the Cougars win four state championships. With his old radio hours, he was off in time to make afternoon practices. Now when the Cougars hit the field during the school year, Garcia will be working in the studio. But he said he's not going away.
"We're going to still continue to have that relationship," Garcia said of himself and the Catholic coaching staff. "It's just during the season, it's going to be a little less than it has been. I'll still be there in preseason and on game nights and on Thursday nights with the (junior varsity). I will have my hands on it a little bit. ... I won't be there day-to-day in practice, but I'll be there more than people think. Just in a different type role."
Garcia, 45, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Panthers in 1995 and played for three NFL teams: Carolina (1995-2000), St. Louis (2001-02) and Arizona (2003). Garcia started 84 games for the Panthers and played on the Rams' Super Bowl XXXVI team against New England.
He kept a home in Charlotte, and not long after his playing career ended, he started in radio. He's worked with several co-hosts and also hosted his show alone before pairing with Bailey.
Garcia said working with Bailey has been the best thing that's happened to him in his radio career.
"I thought our show could take off if I got a host who really understood how to drive a show and I could take my role as co-host," Garcia said. "We got Kyle Bailey ... and I tell you what, I have not been this excited about doing radio since I started. He's phenomenal, and we have a great rapport. He's really taken this to the next level."
And after working in the midday for 12 years, Garcia admits he's a little nervous moving to the major afternoon drive slot. He said Kroeger's move to the mornings wasn't a demotion. He said it was meant to free up Kroeger for some outside opportunities — Kroeger currently does some work with the Charlotte Hornets NBA team — and Garcia is excited about his new opportunity.
"I have butterflies," he said. "I texted the guys (Sunday). I said, 'Let's not forget why we are here: to put together a great show and be us. Let's do us and not do something we're not.'"
WFNZ has had the "PrimeTime" format in the afternoon for many years, bringing in daily guests to work with a host. Garcia said his show would not adopt that format but that Kroeger would continue using a similar one in the midday slot.
"We get a lot of different perspectives on our show," Garcia said. "I've been (in Charlotte) for 23 years. I've seen it come from the beginning of the Panthers to where we are now. (Listeners) can expect honesty, levity and just us trying to have a great show and have a good time."