Behind the scenes with Myles Garrett on draft day
ARLINGTON, Texas — At 9 a.m., Myles Garrett wakes up to a bowl of oatmeal prepared by his mother, the formidable Audrey Garrett. She is mentor, teacher, butt-whooper and, particularly these days, gatekeeper. Myles is the presumed No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft, scheduled for later on this clear-skied Thursday in late April, and Audrey has a hundred tasks to complete before that moment arrives. “All my trust is in her hands,” Myles says. “Whatever she deems right… since she has my best interest at heart, I take one look at it and make a move.”
Audrey has deemed it right and proper that the NFL Players Association should host a hometown draft party at a local golf course for Myles, who preferred to have as many family and friends around him as possible for the big moment. The red carpet and green room in Philadelphia couldn’t provide that, so he turned down the invite. Says his father, Lawrence Garrett: “He’s not the kind of guy that wants to dress up, put on a suit, walk across a stage. That’s not him.”
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Myles is the baby, the youngest of three children who grew up under this roof, in a comfortable Dallas suburb, then went on to athletic success. His brother, Sean Williams, was the 17th overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, to the New Jersey Nets. His sister, Brea, was an NCAA champion weight thrower at Texas A&M. Myles followed her to College Station upon graduation as the No. 2 high school football prospect in the country in 2014, according to Rivals.com.
The accolades kept pouring in. Two-time All-America defensive end. Three-time All-SEC. In the Garrett household, the only items more common than football trophies are the tiny dinosaur toys that litter the family room and common areas, resting on dressers and coffee tables. Myles’ obsession with the Jurassic Park franchise earned him his only physical reprimand from Audrey in childhood. “This is the one we never had to whoop,” she later tells a guest. “I used a wooden spoon just one time on his hand, because I was calling and calling for him and he just ignored me. He was probably watching Jurassic Park.”
At 11 a.m. Thursday, Myles Garrett, 21, has his eyes glued to another dinosaur — Yoshi. The Super Mario Bros. sidekick bounces across the big screen outside Myles’ room upstairs, kicking and punching a host of video game characters that make up the Super Smash Bros. roster. In between games, Myles reclines on the couch and fields texts from friends and acquaintances wishing him luck. “A lot of these are old numbers I haven’t seen in a long time,” he says. “I’m just saying thank you.”
At 12:15 p.m., Myles’ two best friends arrive to join the fight. Jesus Martinez and Ryan Box are happy to play Smash Bros. or Guitar Hero with their oldest friend, though they’ve sworn off Mortal Kombat. “He’s so good at it,” Box says, “it got to where it wasn’t fun to play anymore.” Martinez and Myles have been friends since second grade; Box joined the group in middle school. The boys know to ask if Audrey will be OK with them wearing t-shirts, rather than something more formal, at the party; Myles assures them it’s fine.
Myles, 6’4″, 270 pounds, stands a foot taller than Martinez and weighs roughly twice as much as his oldest pal. They’d walk to a nearby creek as kids, journeying down the riverbank, hopping from one large rock to another. Garrett struggled to master one particular rock, slipping and falling in the water every time he attempted to follow Martinez’s path.
“We were 10 or 11 years old,” Martinez says. “I could maneuver around the slippery edges easily, but he was so lanky and awkward he’d slip and fall. His foot was so big he couldn’t place it correctly. One day he finally landed it, but he was so big the rock broke and he fell in anyway.”
The episode foreshadowed what was to come in Myles’ athletic career. The tall, lanky kid who loved basketball never excelled at precision activities like dribbling, finger rolls or tight-roping a baseline. He was meant to break things.
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At 12:15 p.m., there’s a knock at the door and a surprise visitor. The players association arranged for Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, one of Myles’ pass-rushing idols, to visit him at home for a film session. Garrett is stunned. They sit down to watch Garrett’s college film, and Smith tutors him on the necessity of gaining separation from blockers. “All this knowledge that we old-timers have, it’s not ours to keep,” Smith says later. “It’s ours to pass along.”
Myles’ agent, Bus Cook, joins the Garrett family at 2:17 p.m. as they relax before heading to the golf course for the party. Cook takes a phone call from a reporter and explains his belief that Garrett will be the No. 1 pick, though he’s not certain. “Again I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Cook says, “but the idea ever since they signed [Jamie] Collins has been to rebuild that defense.” Lawrence slumps on a couch and let’s out a heavy sigh: “I’m just ready for it to be over with.”
There’s some relief, however, in the firm belief that Garrett will go first. When Audrey’s eldest son, Sean, opted for a draft party at the family’s church in 2007, the group had no idea where he’d be drafted. “We weren’t sure if he’d sit there for a while because he had issues in college,” Audrey says. “So the pressure was there. With Myles I can relax.”
There’s one more visitor. At 3:30 p.m., Randy Moss, in town to handle the ESPN live shot from the Garrett party, stops by. Garrett wore No. 84 early in his high school career as a nod to Moss, his favorite offensive player. Now Moss is in his living room, telling him the NFL might not be everything he imagined.
“A lot of guys get messed up because they don’t understand it’s a business,” Moss says. “A lot of guys who leave college and go to the pros still think its football. One of the biggest things I try to preach is that I didn’t have any guidance. I came into the league with my head chopped off. You’re the first overall pick so you’re going to have people coming at you from different directions, and you have to be ready for that.”
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At 6:11 p.m., the Garretts make their way to the golf course, the draft less than an hour away. Audrey is already there, overseeing arrivals and checking in guests. Dinner is crawfish and barbecue, Myles’ choice. In attendance are dozens of friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Sean, Audrey’s first child from a previous marriage, towers over the guests. Standing 6’10”, he set the Boston College record for blocks in a game when he swatted 13 against Duquesne in 2006. Later that season he was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. His first NBA stint lasted four seasons, as he struggled with marijuana use and was arrested in 2009 for a violent outburst in a cell phone store. Myles doesn’t drink or smoke as a result of his brother’s missteps.
Around the time Williams flamed out of the NBA, Myles was making a name for himself as a sophomore on the varsity football team at Martin High in Arlington. Coach Bob Wager, dissatisfied with the inconsistent effort he was getting from his most athletically gifted player, called the family in for a “Come to Jesus” discussion. Wager, barrel-chested with a clean-shaved head, told Garrett, “Potential means you haven’t done anything yet.”
Myles would evolve into one of the top prep athletes in the nation. During a recruiting meeting with a Texas A&M coach in 2013, it dawned on Wager that he’d soon be passing Myles along to the Aggies’ staff; he was moved to tears. At the party, Garrett’s position coach at A&M, Terry Price, alluded to the emotional moment before handing Garrett his No. 15 A&M jersey, framed.
“You’re turning a page on a new chapter,” Wager says. “You coach him from 14 to 18 years old, you pour in every ounce of love and effort, and basically hand over your son, because that’s exactly how you coach him. If that doesn’t bring emotion out of you, then shame on us.
“You got the complete package with Myles. A terrific football player, a beautiful human being, a great teammate, and a guy who never forgot where he came from.”
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The draft begins at 7 p.m. with Roger Goodell’s announcement: “The Cleveland Browns are on the clock”, but those assembled in the golf course banquet area can’t hear it. There’s no sound coming from the television. Audrey sounds the alarm: “This won’t work if I can’t hear his name called, so somebody get some sound!”
The room of 80 friends and family falls silent while golf course employees and NFLPA handlers scour the room for a remote. In less than 30 seconds, the problem is solved and everyone pauses a moment to imagine what Audrey might have done if not for the quick fix. Coach Wager breaks the hush: “This is your night, baby,” he shouts across the room to Myles. “Your night!”
As the minutes grind down, Audrey leans into Garrett and whispers something in his ear. He looks down to the headphones in his lap and smiles. Six minutes into the countdown, his phone rings. A buzz fills the room. It’s Jim Brown, the former Browns running back whom Garrett had met once before, at a Hall of Fame luncheon during Super Bowl week in Houston.
“I hope you’re excited to be a new member of the Cleveland Browns,” Brown says.
“Yes sir,” Garrett replies.
Soon, Hue Jackson takes over the call.
“Didn’t I tell you, you were my guy?” Jackson says, dispelling any notion the pick was ever in question.
For Myles, it’s a tremendous relief. He takes off his t-shirt to reveal a second shirt with Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame logo on his chest. “When LeBron won his first championship they asked him, ‘LeBron, how you feel?’” Myles says, “and he said, ‘It’s about damn time.’
“Everybody can be done with this. No more mock drafts and all that. Just know where I’m going, put the work in and let’s get this cranked up.”
Myles spends the next hour and a half greeting almost every party attendee with a hug. He retires at the end of the first round to a picnic table near the crawfish boil and puts his famous appetite to work. He was 11 pounds at birth, and by age 5 he could put down 15 pancakes in one sitting, according to Audrey.
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When he’s done eating (45 minutes later) he asks his brother, Ryan, Jesus and another friend, David Rivera, to take a walk with him through the golf course in the dark. They disappear into the night, the hulking NFL player, his towering older brother and his diminutive-by-comparison pals.
“These guys are like my family,” Garrett says. “I just wanted them to get their own comments out, what they wanted to say. They couldn’t get to me with everyone around. I just appreciated their time and I knew they would show some appreciation for everything we been through.”
Williams, 30, delivers four familiar words: “Just peace and love,” he says. “It’s just the beginning.” The friends talk about those childhood visits to the creek, and walking to Myles’ house in middle school and being barred from going inside until Myles finished whatever basketball drills his father had assigned. They laugh about their recent purchase of Guitar Hero, the video game none of them had played since they got real jobs and Myles went to A&M.
“We’re getting old,” Box says.
“I just wanted to let him know how proud I was of him, and just to realize how far we’ve come,” Martinez says. “I wanted to let him know I’d be there for the rest of it.”
While the boys are in the woods, Charles Garrett, Myles’ grandfather on his father’s side, leaves the party to go visit his mother, 98-year-old Minnie Garrett. Her short-term memory has suffered with age, Charles says, but she remembers most things from her past. Charles delivered the good news: Myles Garrett, the great-great grandson of cotton sharecroppers from Waskom, Texas, is the No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft.
Back at the party, Garrett is on Cloud Nine. He’d done it his way, surrounded by family, with his mother and father at his side. “Just being able to hold your loved ones knowing this is such a great moment of your life. I didn’t want to let that slip by,” he says. “I felt like anybody who had any positive impact in my life should be able to take part in this.”
And what about his mother’s last words before he got the call? The final advice that precipitated his life changing forever?
“It was about the Bose headphones,” he says with a chuckle. “They’re a sponsor. She said, Make sure you put those Bose headphones on the table so they can see.
“She’s all love, and she’s all business.”
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