In efforts to become a more visible leader within the Texas A&M locker room, defensive end Myles Garrett has chosen to become invisible to fans and peers on social media.
He no longer posts items or checks the timeline on the Twitter account he created during his high school days at Arlington Martin. He’s sworn off Instagram and Snapchat, too.
“There’s a lot of negativity on there that I don’t need in my life,” Garrett said Thursday during his first appearance at an A&M news conference. “I just felt like, if I want to move forward as a person and as a football player, I don’t need to let other people’s opinions stick with me or be in my mind when I have other things that I can be doing with my time to get better as a person and as a football player and as a leader.”
Rest assured, A&M coaches are counting on Garrett to make strides in all three areas this season. That represents a high bar to clear for someone who set the SEC freshman sack record last season (11.5), breaking the mark held by Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. But Garrett (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), a five-star signee, became accustomed to upsized expectations while growing up in a household where two older siblings thrived at the highest levels in their respective sports.
His older sister, Brea, won the 2014 NCAA indoor championship in the weight throw for A&M (72 feet, 8 inches) and his half-brother, Sean Williams, spent time in four NBA organizations, including the Dallas Mavericks (2011-12), after being selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets.
Garrett, a sophomore, readily embraced an off-season request from coaches to become a more vocal leader for an A&M team seeking to improve on last year’s 8-5 record. The self-imposed ban on social media is just one way Garrett has chosen to show it.
Another choice has been to offer on-field corrections to teammates when they struggle to grasp nuances of the aggressive 4-3 scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator John Chavis.
“There was a situation the other night when things weren’t going right in practice. I was happy to hear him speak up,” coach Kevin Sumlin said of Garrett. “It’s hard to do that as a freshman. But Myles is a guy that, because of his talent and his ability, when he talks, guys are going to listen. He’s finally realized that. He’s embraced that.”
Sumlin hopes Garrett’s pep talks prove useful in turning around an A&M defense that ranked last among SEC teams in total defense (450.8 yards per game) and rushing defense (216-yard avg.) last season. Garrett stressed that he will not be shy in sharing his insights.
“Sometimes, you need some words of encouragement to get us back on the right track. If nobody else is going to step up and say it, I need to say it,” Garrett said. “Because they’re going to follow whoever has got that mentality. They’re going to get that attitude to bring it ... To find that one goal and just have everyone head there together. If I can do that for us, then I’ll do it.”
Chavis, who spent the past six seasons at LSU, envisions Garrett and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall (6-6, 260) being the bookends on a front four capable of shocking the SEC with a relentless pass rush.
“I think, as a pair, we’ve got two of the best defensive ends in college football,” Chavis said. “That’s a pretty big statement. But I’m not afraid to make that statement after being with them in spring practice and seeing where we are now.”
Chavis predicted Garrett, in particular, will be “a lot better” this season because of his increased strength and maturity. He’ll also have more freedom to fire off the ball now that A&M has ditched its read-and-react approach used last season by predecessor Mark Snyder.
What has not disappeared are Garrett’s drive to improve and belief that he can do more to help his team. Garrett, who did not talk to the media last season because of a Sumlin ban on interviews with freshmen, downplayed the significance of his SEC sack record because he “didn’t meet my own standards” last season.
What is Garrett’s standard?
“If I’m not the best D-lineman, that’s not good enough for me,” Garrett said. “I want to affect the offense every time I’m on the field.”
At times, Garrett acknowledged his performance was impacted by injuries. He said he missed the Missouri game because of a concussion and played the final seven games with a torn ligament in his left thumb that required postseason surgery. The injury occurred while trying to tackle Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott during a 48-31 loss in Starkville, Miss., that ended A&M’s five-game winning streak to start the season.
“The injury really got to me. Toward the end of the season, I was scared to hurt myself any more than I already was,” Garrett said of an ailing thumb that limited the use of his left hand. “It finally got to the point I wrapped all the way up and just did the best I could without [using] it.”
Having full use of the thumb again during fall drills has been an attitude booster. It makes him expect more of himself during a season when he graces the cover of the school’s 2015 media guide and is being viewed as an emerging vocal leader.
To Garrett, that’s part and parcel of being a self-described “different breed” of defensive end who leaves his mean streak in the locker room when he departs the field. An avid reader, Garrett said he tries to finish a book for pleasure every two weeks and likes to do “artsy things” in his spare time, like writing or drawing. Around campus, he’s prone to engage strangers in conversation.
“I like meeting people and putting a smile on their face,” Garrett said. “I’ve got two different selves and I keep them in different spots.”
But on the field, he’s a perfectionist. And he’s hardest on himself.
“To me, I haven’t done enough,” Garrett said. “There was a lot of plays I could have given more effort [last season]. There’s small things I need to refine to take my game to the next level. I’m trying to push myself more and more.”
This year, he’ll take a more active role in pushing his teammates as well.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
Hitting the sack
Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett was the second-leading sacker in the SEC last season: