College football practices are scripted down to the second. With a limited amount of time for coaches to coach and players to learn, there is very little wasted movement. To be certain, a trip to the Coolidge Football Practice Fields at Texas A&M is sure to leave a first-timer with a dizzy head, thanks to a non-stop, well-rehearsed array of whistles, shouting and hustle.
Coaches demand 100 percent focus, attention and effort.
But, one day last season Myles Garrett just couldn't help himself.
As practice churned on, he noticed an unfamiliar, waheelchair-bound visitor intently watching the Aggies work. Garrett didn't recognize the teenaged boy, but the sight of him made an impression.
Later, Garrett found himself finishing a play near the young man's position on the sidelines. In contrast to the way he plays on Saturdays, Garrett momentarily stopped thinking about football. Instead, he trotted over to the teen, shook hands, offered a hug and said, "Hey, how are you doing? We're glad you are here."
While the star-struck young man beamed, Garrett turned and trotted back to his teammates.
The moment wasn't one that would generate any fanfare, as there were no cameras or media members present. But the small gesture was typical of the way Garrett lives his life. In a social media-dominated society, Garrett is refreshingly old-school. He prefers handshakes and face-to-face conversation to Facebook likes and Twitter retweets. In fact, the 20-year-old made headlines last season when he deactivated all of his social media accounts.
Aggie fans aren't the only ones who have taken notice of the head-turning junior's unique personality.
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey made special mention of Garrett during his annual media address at SEC Media Days earlier this summer.
"Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett lives well beyond the game of football," said Sankey, to a room filled with hundreds of reporters and a live audience on the SEC Network. "He has affinity like me for reading books. His goal is to read one every two weeks. He writes poetry, which I do not. He left Twitter, which I did not, though I thought about it over the last year. He refrained from social media because he said this: 'Getting better as a person, football player and leader is how I want to spend my time.'"
Few players in the nation can match Myles Garrett in the weight room or on the field. The junior defensive end owns both with a ferocity that many say comes once in a generation. Perhaps even more remarkable is his demeanor off the field. Despite constant attention and the likelihood of being a first-round NFL Draft pick one day, Garrett possesses a much softer side that was on full display during a summer mission trip to Haiti.
Considering those words were spoken by perhaps the most powerful figure in college athletics, Garrett's national reputation has elevated significantly since he arrived in College Station in 2014. A prominent recruit out of Arlington Martin High School after being named the Class 5A defensive player of the year as a senior, Garrett exploded on the collegiate scene as a true freshman.
He led the Aggies in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries before being named the team's defensive MVP and a second-team All-SEC selection. His 11.5 sacks broke the A&M and SEC freshmen records, and his blocked-field-goal-turned-touchdown played a large role in the Aggies' stunning 41-38 win at No. 3 Auburn.
The comparisons to former South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney were immediate. Clowney, who became a YouTube sensation after his devastating hit against a Michigan running back in the 2013 Outback Bowl, was the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Garrett quickly found himself cast in a similar light as the former Heisman frontrunner.
While his on-field stature grew, Garrett became somewhat of an enigma. Coach Kevin Sumlin's longstanding policy to not allow freshmen to speak with the media kept his budding star under wraps, but that changed in 2015 when the then-sophomore made regular press conference appearances.
Ironically, speaking to the media only increased the intrigue around Garrett, who now stands 6-foot-5 and weighs a sculpted 262 pounds. It became known that he is an avid reader who writes poetry in his spare time.
"Myles is a real unique individual, and I say that in a very complimentary way," said director of player development Mikado Hinson.
Hinson would certainly know. His charge as part of the A&M staff is to engage players, often off the field, and help mentor their development as men.
"What I've seen about him is that he got away from home and experienced some freedom and didn't change," Hinson said. "I really like that about him. He's one of the most grounded, humble guys I have ever worked with. There haven't been a whole lot of changes in him as a person, other than just the maturation and growing as a man. He's been just as humble, hardworking and steady his whole time here."
Hinson is one of the few people who have seen Garrett in a rather unique light. This summer, Garrett was one of 28 student-athletes who traveled to Haiti for a weeklong mission trip. Members of the football, volleyball, soccer and equestrian teams, as well as a number of athletics staffers, attended the faith-based trip, and the Aggies spent time working with children, planting trees and digging irrigation ditches.
"That trip confirmed what I already knew," Hinson said. "He wasn't looking for cameras or a pat on the back. He engaged with people there because it was the right thing to do. The kids were amazed by his biceps. He wasn't afraid to be down in the dirt, getting dirty and playing with those children. It was one of those things that warms your heart because to the kids, they were just playing with a big, strong guy from the United States. They had no idea he is someone who will have his name called really early one day in the NFL Draft.
"Those are his sweet spots...in obscurity because he sees himself fulfilling his purpose."
While Garrett prefers to stay out of the spotlight, the football field is one place he is the unquestioned center of attention. And for good reason.
Scouts and pundits are fawning over the Aggies' defensive end, who is eligible to enter the NFL Draft after this season. He has been tabbed a possible No. 1 pick, which would make him the highest-drafted player in A&M history. (Von Miller and Quentin Coryatt were both taken with the second pick.)
Some in the national media have questioned why a seemingly sure-fire top-five pick would risk injury by suiting up this year, but Garrett is quick to shoot down those suggestions.
"I want to be one of the best to ever come through A&M, and (sitting out a year) would be betraying the people I've played with and the people who have come before me who have worked their butts off," Garrett said. "You don't disgrace the game like that and say, 'It's not worth my time, and I'll be a first round pick anyway.' You play because you love it, not because you can make money from it."
That type of workmanlike attitude is part of what makes Garrett special.
It's also why he approaches his time in the weight room with ferocity. Larry Jackson, A&M's director of sports performance, describes Garrett as a workout beast who constantly leaves others in the program shaking their head in wonder. Jackson said Garrett can power clean 440 pounds, vertical jump nearly 40 inches, run a 4.4-second 40-yard-dash and do repetitions on the leg press with 1,300 pounds. It's those eye-widening numbers that recently led to FoxSports.com placing Garrett atop its annual ranking of the "Top 20 Freaks in College Football."
"We run out of space on the bar to put more weight on," said Jackson, who played in three consecutive Cotton Bowls as a linebacker and defensive end at A&M in the early 1990s. "When you look at him, it's hard not to have a man-crush on the way he's built. He works hard, and anytime we ask him to do something, he always says yes.
"There aren't many people you meet in life who were ready for the NFL out of high school. I've seen three: Adrian Peterson, Sam Adams and Myles Garrett. I'm just waiting for him to rip open his shirt, show off an 'S' on his chest and fly away."
In a world dominated by social media, Garrett is much more at home when he is shaking someone's hand or speaking face to face. No moment--not even the ones leading up to a big game at Kyle Field--is too big for A&M's 6-foot-5 star (shown here with longtime A&M athletics and 12th Man Foundation supporter Dorothy McFerrin) to try and connect with someone.
In fact, Garrett feels so at home working out that he chose his high school weight room as the location of his verbal commitment ceremony in Oct. 2013. The soft-spoken Garrett appeared slightly bashful and even a little uncomfortable addressing the room.
Instead of picking from a lineup of hats or making a spectacle of his decision, Garrett simply thanked his teammates and coaches before stating, "I'm going to make my commitment to Texas A&M." While his teammates whooped and hollered, Garrett quickly set the microphone down and tried to move back out of the spotlight. Not surprisingly, the days leading up to National Signing Day in 2014 were drama-free; he had made a commitment, and he stuck to it.
Garrett comes from an athletic family. His older brother, Sean Williams, didn't play basketball until age 15 before exploding on the scene at Boston College and being selected No. 17 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. His sister, Brea, became the first Aggie to win a national championship in the weight throw at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships as a junior.
After 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles last season, Garrett is aiming for a jaw-dropping 20 sacks as a junior. The task may sound Herculean, but thus far in his career Garrett has not given observers any reason to doubt him. Only one player in school history (Jacob Green, 1979) has managed to crack the 20-sack plateau. If Garrett can achieve it, he would not only set a school record for season sacks, but he would also climb past Aaron Wallace's career total of 37.
Not surprisingly, Garrett deflects attention to his teammates when talking about such an audacious goal. He is mature enough to know that it isn't only about him.
"We have to have great chemistry," Garrett said. "I can't do it without the rest of the team working hard and making big plays themselves. If I can have good chemistry with them and they can take some pressure off of me, I can find some room to make some plays."
That thought has to worry opposing offensive coordinators, who have spent part of their offseasons trying to game-plan around the Aggie playmaker. Last year, some found success by running plays straight at Garrett to take advantage of his penchant for getting up field so quickly. If he improves against the run while maintaining his seek-and-destroy capabilities against opposing quarterbacks, Garrett will make a case for being the most disruptive player in Aggie history.
"There aren't a whole lot of guys out there who are what I term low-maintenance, great players," Sumlin said. "He is a guy who beats to his own drum. He just wants to know what time practice is, when to go to class, when his meetings are, and what time the game is."
Garrett said he doesn't plan to rescind his social media policy anytime soon, so Aggie fans will have to be content enjoying his exploits on the field.
"I don't miss (social media) at all," Garrett said. "It causes too much drama. Getting rid of it didn't take away from my days, and it actually opened up more things for me to do and be productive."
Sumlin, meanwhile, summed up the thoughts of every coach in America recently when asked about Garrett: "I wish I had 80 guys like that."
To those who support student-athletes by giving, I want to say thanks and gig 'em.
Without them, many young people who aren't financially stable or can't provide an education for themselves have a great opportunity. It makes A&M a better place."