Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia has become the latest pro athlete to publicly declare his heterosexuality.

“I’ve heard the rumor myself that I’m gay,” Garcia said in an interview with Matt Maiocco, 49ers beat writer for the Santa Rosa Democrat conducted the week of the 49ers’ final game of the regular season. The story was published Wednesday (Feb. 4).

“That is not the case. I’ve had girlfriends in the past and I do want to be married some day. … Somebody saying it obviously doesn’t have any clue as to who I am as a person and, secondly, speaks from a sense of having jealousy for what I’ve been able to attain as a person and is trying to knock me. Well, they’re not knocking me.”

There has been much speculation as to Garcia’s sexual orientation since he became the team’s starting quarterback in 1999. Most of it centers on his mannerisms and voice, which have set off the gaydar of many a fan. Maiocco interviewed Garcia as part of a feature on longtime 49ers trainer Lindsy McLean, who came out publicly in the newspaper and in “ESPN The Magazine.” Garcia willingly discussed the gay rumors, Maiocco told Outsports.

“I don’t know if it’s how I speak or what it is about me that presents that sort of label, but I don’t know how many times I have to be out in public with a girlfriend to stop that from being said,” Garcia, 34, said.

“Just because an individual in his 30s hasn’t found true love and, yes, there are opportunities to date but it also forces you to be more particular. In so many ways, you become more adamant about finding that right person and not allowing yourself to open up to just anybody.

Garcia said he has heard derogatory words, apparently of the homophobic variety, hurled at him in opposing stadiums, especially Oakland and Philadelphia. He also said the rumors have swirled around him since his days in the Canadian Football League.

Garcia appears to be at the forefront of a nascent trend of jocks saying they’re heterosexual. In 2000, boxer Lennox Lewis, who lives with his mother and has a poodle, told a London paper that he’s not gay. In 2002, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza held a press conference to deny that he’s gay, following a blind rumor in the New York Post. And in January, Cleveland Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano said he’s not gay, despite his appearance in a gay porn film.

If any other athletes wish to publicly declare their heterosexuality, drop us a line at Outsports and we’ll make sure the world knows.

Feb. 4, 2004

January 2007 Update: Garcia’s career was resurrected when he took over from an injured Donovan McNabb and led the Philadelphia Eagles to five straight wins and a spot in the playoffs. Garcia is engaged to Carmella DeCesare, Playboy’s 2004 Playmate of the year.

Summer 2005 Update: Garcia is playing for the Detroit Lions after being picked up in the offseason.

Feb. 2005 Update: The Cleveland Browns cut quarterback Jeff Garcia after a rocky one season with the team. Garcia had a rough year on the field-against Dallas he recorded only the fifth 0.0 quarterback rating, and ended his season on the bench with an injury.

Off the field, Garcia publicly declared his heterosexuality after former teammate Terrell Owens said he was gay. Garcia then had a very public relationship with a Playboy Playmate, that ended with him testifying at her assault trial for allegedly karate-kicking one of his ex-girlfriends during a fight at a downtown nightclub.

Aug. 2004 Update: Owens on Garcia Being Gay