These are Myles Garrett’s stomping grounds. For those who have followed the development of the presumptive No. 1 selection in next Thursday’s NFL Draft from his time at Arlington Martin through his three years at Texas A&M, the legend is real.
It’s even more real to opposing offenses and special teams units. The following are some of the Myles Garrett stories that have taken on a life of their own, from both high school and college.
1. The Swagcopter touches down
It was the third and final week of Martin’s non-district schedule in Garrett’s senior season. The Warriors were at South Grand Prairie. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and his defensive line coach arrived in style to get a glimpse of their most important target in the Class of 2013, in one of the Aggies’ most effective recruiting tools.
They announced their presence in a maroon and white helicopter, which came to be known in Aggie circles as the “Swagcopter.’’ It could have been a distraction, as it caught everyone’s attention in the Gopher Bowl as it landed midway through the first quarter. But Garrett made that moment his by blocking a punt the play after the propellers stilled, knowing full well who was watching.
The Martin defense scored a touchdown on the play. It was one of seven blocked kicks for Garrett in the first seven games of that season.
2. A who’s-who of college coaches
At one Martin football practice that season, Martin football coach Bob Wager remembers Alabama coach Nick Saban, then-Texas coach Mack Brown, then-Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and then-LSU caoch Les Miles all in attendance to watch the team work out.
“On this particular day, we were doing what we refer to as a two-station run,” Wager said. “Six minutes on each station, and after those stations, everybody sprints out of the weight room, runs a 400-meter dash and right back in. Well, those great coaches happened to be standing at or around the overhead door, and when that buzzer goes off, our kids just react. Everybody turns and sprints out the door. We nearly ran them all over.”
3. 8.5 sacks in one game
Same season, three weeks later. After dismantling South Grand Prairie, 30-7, and Arlington, 38-17 in Martin’s district opener, the Warriors were at Weatherford. The question was not who would win, but what would the margin be and what would Garrett do to the Kangaroos’ offensive line.
When the dust settled at Kangaroo Stadium, Garrett had piled up 8.5 sacks, while his counterpart on the defensive line, O’Shea Jackson, gathered three more.
“That was the first night we played [Garrett] at nose guard,” Wager said. “And it got to the point where you almost felt sorry for your opponent, because he was in the backfield nearly taking handoffs before offensive linemen were even out of their stance.”
Martin held Weatherford to 25 rushing yards and 96 total yards in the 47-3 win.
“My teammates were getting through all night, and that really helped me to get through some gaps and get to the quarterback,” Garrett said on that early October night. “When we have a night like tonight, it gets hectic. We all just want to see who’s going to get to the quarterback first.”
4. Dunking since 7th grade
Garrett isn’t just a game-changer on the football field. He was a three-sport star at Martin, in fact: football, basketball and track.
“He would completely transform the basketball team when he joined them after football season,” Wager said. “Monstrous dunks. A terrific shot blocker. And just a tremendously menacing presence on the court.”
Garrett was able to dunk, in real-game situations, with a defender in front of him, since at least seventh grade. He recalls one of the first time he wowed his teammates, even before he came to Martin.
“I was in 7th grade. We had just just gotten out of basketball practice,” Garrett said in 2013. “We had a little 3-on-3 going. This guy passed me the ball, and I just went up and dunked it. All my teammates went crazy. My coaches jumped on me. Their expressions were, just, shock.”
5. New guy on campus
Fast forward to Garrett’s arrival at Texas A&M. During his first formal lifting session in College Station, in the summer of 2014, Garrett watched Germain Ifedi, who was then the Aggies’ strongest player, power-clean 352 pounds for the first time.
It was a new max lift for Ifedi. He got the 352 pounds up once.
Garrett walked over and lifted the weight three times to a stunned chorus of whoopes and hollers from his new teammates. Ifedi, by the way, was no slouch. He ended up as a first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
6. All-American photo-op
The on-the-field legend is one thing, but it’s not the whole picture when it comes to Garrett. In fact, it’s not close to the whole thing. From his love of dinosaurs and paleontology to his affinity for rock ballads and old soul (Wager said they bonded over old Gap Band tunes while traveling together for various awards banquet following his senior season at Martin), Garrett is a human first.
Before his junior season at A&M, in the heat of the summer of 2016, Garrett and Aggie quarterback Trevor Knight were posing for pictures at Kyle Field for the local newspaper’s SEC preview magazine. At the same time, toward the end of the photo shoot, a tour group began filing in.
It turns out the group was from a kids’ English language emersion camp, and Garrett jogged over to them, signed whatever they wanted and took plenty of selfies to preserve the moment.
Wager has a similar story from just a couple weeks ago, as Garrett has been spending time before the draft with his family in Arlington.
“Around here he’s just Myles,” Wager said. “Our teaching staff puts on an event for elementary kids called the Golly-whopper Games that’s a math contest. Our role is, we bring the inflatable helmet, we bring the tunnel, the kids do some type of math problem at a table, and if they get a math problem correct, they get a hand-off, and they take a football through the tunnel, where we’ve got a half dozen players in their jerseys with hand-held blocking shields.
“We’ll bang them around a little bit in the tunnel, and then they get to jump onto a high-jump mat. [Garrett] just showed up and stayed for an hour and a half. As long as people wanted to talk to him. As long as they wanted to take pictures with him. He just blends right in. He’s Myles from down the street, and it’s been that way since the day I’ve met him, and he’s never ever changed.”
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817