Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager remembers precisely the moment when he realized Myles Garrett was special. Not just good but special.
It was the day Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Brian Kelly were together in the school’s weight room watching Garrett.
“You started to look around and go, ‘That’s a little different,’” Wager said. “We’ve had a lot of players who have had a chance to go on and get their educations paid for, and some of them were very, very highly recruited, but when you start having those coaches hang around all at the same time, that’s a little bit different.
“…Myles was probably 16 years old at the time, and that’s what prompted this particular conversation. Before the conversation was over we went from, of course, dinosaurs to our mutual appreciation for the Gap Band and all things ’70s and ‘80s to all of a sudden his future aspirations with humanitarian efforts. I’m around 15- and 16-year-old kids every day, and that was the first time I ever remember a high school junior telling me he really wanted to make a concerted effort to make the world a better place, and this is how he wanted to go about doing it. That’s when the wheels started to turn, and I realized this guy’s got a grander vision and a bigger picture than your average 16 year old.”
Hundreds of high school players are highly recruited every year. Thousands play college football. But NFL teams draft only 250 or so each year, and only one goes No. 1 overall.
The Cleveland Browns are expected to make Garrett, Texas A&M’s prized defensive end, the top choice. Tarrant County has never had a No. 1 overall pick, with Arlington High’s Luke Joeckel going No. 2 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.
“He’s far and away the best player in this draft,” CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler said of Garrett.
Highland Park’s Matthew Stafford is DFW’s only previous No. 1 overall pick. The Georgia quarterback went to the Detroit Lions in 2009. Joeckel, W.T. White’s Jason Smith (Rams 2009) and DeSoto’s Von Miller (Denver Broncos 2011) were second overall selections.
DFW players could go 1-2-3 this year with Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas from Coppell and LSU safety Jamal Adams of Hebron also top prospects. But Garrett ranks as the headliner.
“I think he’s the best player in this draft, and I say that because he is a guy with the height, weight, speed and the characteristics with the 41-inch vertical jump and all those things,” NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt said. “Garrett is a three-year starter who was productive.”
Garrett stands 6-4, weighs 272 and has 351/4-inch arms. He had 33 reps in the 225-pound bench press and a 41-inch vertical at the combine, and he ran a 4.57 in the 40 at the Aggies’ Pro Day.
Garrett also was productive with 32.5 career sacks, the second-most in the FBS the past three seasons and seventh all time in the SEC.
Garrett has earned comparisons to Miller, the Broncos outside linebacker who made 33 sacks in his four-year A&M career and has 73.5 so far in the NFL.
“I’ve been on record from day one saying I think [the Browns] have to take [Garrett] at No. 1,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “…I think he’s a difference-maker. If you compare him to Von Miller who came out of the same college four or five years ago, this kid has the same explosion off the ball, the same bend, the ability to pressure a quarterback, and he’s 20 pounds heavier. So I think his upside is he should be a Pro Bowl defensive end. He should be a huge difference- maker in the NFL in the pass game. The only way that doesn’t happen is one of two reasons: one, he gets hurt, or, number two, he doesn’t want it bad enough. But his physical talent is awesome.”
Garrett does have detractors, though, as NFL scouts have yet to find a “perfect” prospect.
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram
In 2011, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said of J.J. Watt: “Watt isn’t an elite pass rusher and won’t be a true sack artist in the NFL.” The three-time defensive player of the year has 76 careers sacks. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who recently called Garrett lazy, said something similar about Jadeveon Clowney before the Houston Texans made the defensive end the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. “I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s tape, and I don’t see a guy who is playing the game with his hair on fire,” Sapp said. Clowney earned Pro Bowl honors last season.
Sapp’s former NFL teammate, Booger McFarland, also has thrown arrows at Garrett. Others have noted that only 12 of Garrett’s sacks came against SEC teams.
Brugler and Brandt point out the number of plays the A&M defense played in 2016, which wore down their starters. Mayock looks at the double- and triple-teams Garrett faced.
Not to mention the high-ankle sprain that kept Garrett out for two games and prevented him from playing 100 percent the last half of 2016.
“I keep going back to that UCLA tape [in the season opener] and saying this is when he was 100 percent healthy and didn’t have the high ankle,” Mayock said. “If this is the guy you’re getting, that’s an All-Pro defensive end. And I understand the tapes are a little bit up-and-down, but I’m willing to live with that based on what I know about what he played through this season.”
One thing teams won’t have to worry about is Garrett off the field. He is the perfect prospect off the field.
“He doesn’t have any character issues,” Brugler said. “…This is a player who just turned 21, but he’s got a mature personality and is a mature decision-maker.”
True to his character, two weeks ago, Garrett showed up unannounced at Martin for the “Golly Whopper,” an annual math carnival.
“He spent an hour and a half with those kids,” Wager said, “and it’s like that every single time he comes home. When Myles Garrett comes back, he’s just Myles. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Wager paused before adding, “And the 41-inch vertical doesn’t hurt.”
The Cleveland Browns are expected to draft former Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick. Arlington High’s Luke Joeckel was No. 2 overall in 2013, the previously highest-drafted product from the city.
Only a handful of players from the city’s high schools have been drafted into the NFL and only 20 are believed to have made a 53-player roster. (Bowie’s Kolby Listenbee, a sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2016, spent his rookie season on the non-football injury list. So while he’s included on the list, he has yet to make a 53-player roster.)
Player//High school//Position//Years in NFL//Analysis
Mike Adams//Sam Houston//WR//1997//A seventh-round pick (223rd overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997, he played in six games and made one catch for 39 yards.
John Brandes//Lamar//TE//1987-93//A 1982 Lamar grad, he didn’t play high school football. He was the team manager. But he played in 90 career NFL games with Indianapolis, Washington, New York Giants and San Francisco. He had five career catches for and one kickoff return for 10 yards.
Mark Clayton//Sam Houston//WR//2005-11//He went to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round (22nd overall) in 2005, he had 260 career catches for 3,448 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Tayo Fabuluje//Oakridge//OL//2015//A sixth-round pick of the Chicago Bears, the TCU product played only four games.
Jamell Fleming//Seguin//CB//2012-2015//A third-round pick (80th overall) of the Cardinals in 2012, he played for three teams with seven career starts.
Justin Forsett//Grace Prep//RB//2008-present//A seventh-round pick (233rd overall) of the Seattle Seahawks in 2008, he played for three teams last season and has 3,890 career yards and 19 touchdowns in his career.
Ali Haji-Sheikh//Arlington//K//1983-87//A ninth-round pick of the Giants in 1983, he made 76 of 111 field-goal tries.
Kenny Iwebema//Bowie//DE//2008-10//A fourth-round pick (116th overall) of the Cardinals, he played in 31 games with seven career tackles. He earned a Super Bowl trip with the Cardinals as a rookie.
Fred Jackson//RB//Lamar//2007-2015//An undrafted free agent, he retired after nine seasons with 5,746 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns.
Steve Jackson//LB//Arlington//1966-67//An undrafted free agent from UTA, he played in 25 games with an interception with the Redskins.
Luke Joeckel//OT//Arlington//2013-present//The No. 2 overall pick of the Jaguars, he made 39 starts in Jacksonville before signing with the Seahawks this offseason.
Kolby Listenbee//WR//Bowie//2016-present//A sixth-round pick, he missed all of last season on the non-football injury list after double sports hernia surgery in March 2016 followed by hip surgery in December.
Scott McGarrahan//DB//Lamar//1998-2005//A sixth-round pick (156th overall) of the Green Bay Packers in 1998, he played in 108 games with three starts and had one career INT.
Shirdonya Mitchell//DB//Sam Houston//2006//He played one game with the Dolphins in 2006, making one tackle.
Guy Morriss//Sam Houston//C//1973-87//A tight end in high school, he arguably is the city’s most productive NFL player. He was a second-round pick (28th overall) of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 and played in 217 games with 173 starts for the Eagles and New England Patriots. He started Super Bowl XV.
Attauyo Nsekhe//Bowie//OT//2012-present//He played in two games for the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Boone Stutz//Martin//LS//2006-07//He played in 28 games in two NFL seasons.
Lane Taylor//Martin//OG//2013-present//He became the Packers starter at left guard last season and started all 16 games.
Joe Walker//Lamar//DB/KR//2001-02//He made three career starts at defensive back for the Tennessee Titans after signing as a free agent out of Nebraska and has a career NFL punt return average of 8.2 yards and kickoff return average of 13.8.
Mitch Willis//Lamar//DT//1985-90//A seventh-round pick of the L.A. Raiders in 1983, Willis played in 51 games, with one start and two sacks.
Jamie Winborn//Bowie//LB//2001-2010//Winborn, who finished his high school career in Alabama, was a second-round pick (47th overall) of the 49ers in 2001.
* -- Players have to have been on a 53-player roster to qualify. The practice squad does not count. Joe Jon Finley, Brandon Foster, Ricky Brown, Reggie Harrell, Aaron Oliver, Adam Hill, Cedric Hilliard, Dave Joeckel, Albert Bimper, Bobby Sign, Rusty Gunn, Gordon Utgard, Ryan Fisher and Ronald Burns are among other Arlington products who flirted with an NFL career. Brown, an Arlington High grad, was on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad in 2000. Bimper, who played at Bowie, was on the Colts’ practice squad in 2006 when they won the Super Bowl. Former NFL players Kevin Breedlove and Reggie Barnes were born in Arlington, but played high school football elsewhere.
Source was Pro Football Reference.