James Robinson, Grayson Adams and Suraj Dhillon sound like they could be members of the same support group.
They’re Garrett Blockers Anonymous. They took on the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s 2017 NFL Draft and lived to tell about it.
“It was like cheating. We literally couldn’t do anything about it,” Robinson said of the night in 2013 that Garrett’s Arlington Martin team wore down Robinson’s Weatherford Kangaroos 47-3. “He would just swim past our center, and two seconds later, he’s in the backfield.”
Adams was that center. Now he’s a sophomore at Weatherford College.
“His speed was what terrified me. But then he just bull-rushed the crap out of me the whole night,” Adams said. “I think the quarterback got sacked off of me four or five times.”
You can just see the offensive linemen, in the annex of some church, sitting in folding chairs set up in a circle, taking turns telling their stories in between sips of coffee in Styrofoam cups. Thankfully, none of them suffered any long-term psychological trauma associated with their episodes, and the Garrett blockers now can look back on the domination they stared in the face, and laugh about it.
Martin coaches credited Garrett with 8.5 sacks of Weatherford quarterback Grant Werts that game. But the Roos weren’t his only victim. The next week, in a 66-20 win over Fort Worth Paschal, Dhillon remembers the terror Garrett caused for the Panthers’ special teams unit.
“We had just scored our first touchdown, and he had been playing defensive end, but they put him at nose on the extra point try,” Dhillon said. “He runs through the line, jumps up, bats the ball down off the kicker’s foot with one hand, picks it up in stride with his other hand and runs it 99 yards the other way for two points. That showed me how freaky athletic he is. He was playing basketball out there with a football. He did that twice to us that game.”
Dhillon was a FBS-level recruit, too. He went to Arkansas Pine Bluff his freshman year before transferring to Northern Colorado, where he is now preparing for his redshirt sophomore season.
“Thankfully, I didn’t give up any sacks that night,” Dhillon said. “That was actually big for me in my recruitment. A few coaches who had seen my tape said, ‘Hey, you played against the guy, and you were able to hold your own for a little bit.’ ”
Martin assistant coach Matt Cook, who was Paschal’s head coach during the 2013 season said, “[Garrett] basically obliterated every guy we put in front of him.”
At one point, after double- and triple-teams had failed against Garrett, then-Weatherford coach Weldon Nelms, who retired from coaching after the 2016 season, defied convention by starting to let him through the offensive line, throwing screens and shuttle passes to the area in the defense that he had vacated.
“That was the best thing we could do,” Nelms said. “At points you scratch your head and ask yourself, ‘how in the hell are we going to do this?’ ”
His players were confused as well.
“We were like, ‘What? All right ...,’” said Robinson, who played right tackle for Weatherford and now plays at Navarro College. “It worked for a minute, but [Garrett] still made plays.”
“We ran some quick corner screens, and we thought it was successful if we could just get two or three yards,” Adams added. “I kept asking the coaches what I needed to do; what we could adjust, but there was nothing, really.”
Adams laughs now when he recalls that he was actually ejected from the Weatherford-Martin game in the fourth quarter for a confrontation with a member of the Martin second-team defense, after Garrett and the rest of the Warriors’ defensive front had been taken out for rest.
“Mentally, I was just so done with getting beat up and all that,” Adams said. “I was struggling, and a guy talked trash, like we will during a football game, and I just gave in to it and confronted him. Even the next morning at Saturday practice, I wasn’t talking to anyone just because of how bad I had gotten my butt kicked.”
But for all their struggles against Garrett on the field, Adams, Robinson and Dhillon all made sure, without being solicited, to point to Garrett’s character.
“The dude’s a great guy. Real humble,” Dhillon said. “I want to wish him the best of luck. It was a great opportunity to play against him, and hopefully we’ll meet again in a few years in the NFL.”
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817