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NFL combine allows Jason Garrett to think of his father

Jason Garrett said that his father has had the biggest influence on his career as an NFL coach. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

INDIANAPOLIS -- Coaches, scouts and front-office personnel greeted Jason Garrett this week while he walked the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center to make his way to Lucas Oil Stadium.

As they offered their condolences over the recent death of Garrett’s father, Jim, a longtime scout and coach, the stories brought a smile to the face of the Dallas Cowboys head coach.

Speaking on Wednesday, Garrett twice became emotional when mentioning his father.

“We had a great celebration of my dad last week,” Garrett said after quickly composing himself. “My seven brothers and sisters and our spouses and my mom and 28 grandkids were all there. A lot of people whose lives he touched were a part of that. It was a great celebration. We wanted to make it that. Told a lot of great stories about him and wanted to keep his spirit alive.”

Jim Garrett died Feb. 9. He was 87 years old.

For 36 years, Jim Garrett was a scout or coach in the NFL. He coached with the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. He spent 17 seasons as a Cowboys’ scout, retiring in 2004.

The draft process thrilled Jim Garrett. He loved evaluating players, debating their plusses and minuses. The NFL scouting combine was not the spectacle that it is now, but the heart of the event was something he loved.

“We’ve gone through the house and we’ve found some old notebooks,” Jason Garrett said. “He was a very detailed notetaker when he was evaluating players and a lot of really recognizable names in this notebooks and how he saw them when they were coming out of school. He took it very seriously, and he had an impact on me and my brothers about how we see football, how we see football players. It’s what we grew up with.

“He was a football coach who impacted lives; but again, as a personnel guy, it was very important to him about how you evaluate a player, how you give him an opportunity, how you believe in him and then hopefully you bring him to your football team and you build the team the right way.”

Win or lose, one of the first calls Garrett would make after a game would be to his father for advice or compassion or some reassurance.

Garrett’s coaching influences range from Norv Turner, Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban and Jon Gruden, as well as coaches from his youth, high school and college careers, but none has been greater than his father’s influence.

“As a coach, as a guy, just the way he viewed life. The spirit, the example he and my mom have provided us throughout our lives,” Garrett said. “He had an amazing ability to believe in people. This idea of believing in people more than they believe in themselves -- instilling that belief in them is how he lived his life. He did that with me many times.”

And it is something the son tries to do with the Cowboys.

“Absolutely,” Garrett said. “That’s Line 1.”