Myles Garrett is the kind of gifted player that college football coaches dream of landing. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he already is the size of an NFL starter. What separates him from the rest, though, is his blistering speed and 36-inch vertical leap.
To put his speed into perspective, his 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds is faster than that of any defensive end who has participated in the NFL combine the past six years.
Most high school coaches run the majority of their plays away from the big man. But Garrett’s speed is so impressive that he routinely chases down receivers and running backs 40 yards downfield. If he wants to overpower you, he can, if he decides to run around you, he will.
Martin coach Bob Wager knows a thing or two about big recruits, having shepherded the early careers of more than 50 players who have gone on to college careers including his most recent standout, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, the Big 12 defensive player of the year.
But even Wager knows that what he is seeing with Garrett, 17, is truly something special.
“We had a day, and quite honestly, this is a typical day, where we had Nick Saban from Alabama, Les Miles from LSU, Mack Brown from the University of Texas, Brian Kelly from Notre Dame all here on the same day to see Myles Garrett,” he said.
And while his potential is seemingly limitless, his story is one that almost never happened.
It was late December 1995 and Audrey Garrett was holding her newborn son. Nurses crowded into the room at John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth, hoping to catch of glimpse of the 11-pound baby.
“What is his name?” asked the doctor. “Myles Lorenz Garrett,” blurted out Audrey’s husband, Lawrence.
Audrey had been calling the child Myles Reese, after her brother, for the last nine months.
She stared at her husband, stunned.
“He was my first-born son,” Lawrence Garrett said. “I felt so connected to him. I didn’t want him to carry my name, but I just felt I wanted to give him something.
Lorenz, a derivative of his name, Lawrence, wasn’t the only thing the father would pass on to his young son.
As Myles grew it became increasingly apparent that something was wrong with his feet.
“He was about 18 months old and he would try to play with the other little kids, but his feet were turned inward and he really struggled trying to walk,” said Audrey.
The couple took their son to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas where he received treatment, leg braces and a special pair of shoes.
“She cried and cried,” said Lawrence, looking at his wife. “At first they were saying he might not even be able to walk.”
But after a few years of therapy, Myles’ feet straightened and he started showing signs of progress.
As he grew, Myles took up basketball. He found modest success on the court, largely because of his size, but he was never a starter. Lawrence had played college basketball and Audrey had been a college track star, but it seemed their youngest son would be little more than a role player on his future high school teams.
Then fate intervened. In 2006, Lawrence, who spent his days working on the loading docks for the U.S. Postal Service, began having severe back problems.
After multiple doctors’ visits, Lawrence found a podiatrist who traced his back problems to his feet.
“While we were there the doctor just happened to say, ‘Do you have any kids whose feet look like this?’” Audrey said. “And we said, ‘Actually, yes we do, our son.’ Myles’ feet looked just like his father’s.’”
At 12, Myles found himself back at a doctor’s office, his unfortunate feet once again the culprit. A series of X-rays showed that the arches in his feet were completely collapsed.
“His feet just hurt him all the time, so when the doctor recommended surgery, we decided to go ahead with it,” Audrey said.
The surgery involved inserting a metallic implant at the intersection of his foot and ankle. Because Myles’ feet were still growing, the operation was successful.
After a year of casts and rehab followed by a summer of plyometric training, Myles had become a new kid.
“I could jump!” Myles said. “I was faster, I could finally do calf workouts, my life just changed and all the sudden I was the fastest guy on the field.”
It was the beginning of a new chapter, one that would be filled with promise.
Myles smiles when he talks about his father. “He’s my best friend. He’s given me everything. Both of my parents have and I just want to make them proud.”
The area’s No. 1 recruit is standing on an empty Martin football field, holding his helmet and shoulder pads after a Saturday morning practice.
“But I know one thing, without that surgery, these feet of mine,” he says, as he points to his size 17 football cleats, “they wouldn’t be able to move like they do, and no one would have ever heard of Myles Lorenz Garrett.”