Texas A&M star Myles Garrett is 'a different dude'

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The next transformative Texas A&M football player doesn't drink or smoke. He couldn't name a club on Northgate. He's not on Twitter. He lives alone.

His biggest vices are video games and Jurassic Park movies, of which he knows every line. His entourage consists of two childhood friends, Jesus Martinez and Ryan Box, whom he talks to daily. Asked about his future, he talks about funding digs -- not mansions, mind you, actual digs to search for dinosaur fossils. It feeds his passion for paleontology.

"A different dude," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.

Myles Garrett's free time is spent drawing, reading, watching movies and gaming. The sophomore defensive end gets along well with his Texas A&M teammates, but they understand that while he's all in on Saturday afternoon, he pulls back on Saturday nights.

"Drinking, smoking, going out -- unnecessary to me," Garrett said. "You have to know what you're doing to help people and have an important stance in life. You can only do that by staying focused, and I can't lose focus for a second. It's just like in football, it's a game of angles and seconds. As soon as you lose depth or that amount of time, you can lose that play, you can lose that game.

"You lose focus, you slip up, you're not in the same place you were before."

Johnny Football, he is not. But on the field, Garrett could be defensive yin to Johnny Manziel's yang at Texas A&M. He's the game-changer Aggies fans have yearned for to complement Sumlin's machine-like offense, the big-deal recruit who has quickly become a very big deal in maroon and white.

The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Garrett has 20 sacks in his first 18 games, already sniffing Texas A&M's career top 10. This season, he leads the SEC in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss per game, and shares the league lead in forced fumbles (3) with teammate Donovan Wilson. Possessing a unique blend of quickness, strength and length, Garrett last Saturday blocked a punt against Alabama, filling another box on his career checklist. The block should have come in the opener against Arizona State, but Garrett was so fast off the line that he overran the punter.

"Johnny is a guy, I don't know how you replicate that," said Kansas coach David Beaty, an Aggies assistant from 2012 to '14 who spent his final two seasons as recruiting coordinator. "As long as he was under center, I don't care what the score was, how much time we had left, I felt like we were going to win. But defensively, [Garrett] has got to be the equivalent to it."

Understatement alert in 3, 2, 1 ...

"Johnny was a little more of a charismatic character," Beaty said.

Manziel's, uh, charisma made him college football's most famous and infamous player during two dizzying seasons. Garrett finds himself on a similar stage at Texas A&M, but no one expects him to stumble.

"When you have a guy who's that good, you feel like there's got to be something somewhere, where the world's going to get to him a little bit," Beaty said. "This guy's almost a can't-miss in my mind. There aren't a lot of stories as complete as his.

"He's going to be a man of character from now until the end."

The one who couldn't get away

Garrett's path to A&M technically began before Sumlin and his staff arrived, with Beaty discovering him as a Kansas assistant in 2011. When Texas A&M's new coaches, including Beaty, took over in 2012, Garrett soon topped their recruiting board -- for several reasons. The staff needed bodies at defensive end after inheriting four seniors and junior Damontre Moore, who earned All-America honors in 2012 before leaving early for the NFL.

A switch from a 3-4 alignment under the previous staff to a 4-3 required taller, rangier pass-rushers.

"Quarterback and pass-rusher, those are the two highest needs at any level of football," Sumlin said, "whether it's high school or college or the NFL draft. Those guys can have an immediate impact in games."

Garrett was good as a junior at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas -- eight sacks, 16 tackles for loss, all-district honors -- but the Aggies' coaches projected him to be great. It's why defensive ends coach Terry Price started recruiting him like a senior.

"I tried to see him at the school every week I could, even though he was still a year away," Price said. "He was a target from day one."

Texas A&M also was entering the SEC, a league set apart by its elite defensive linemen. Garrett became one as a senior, recording 8.5 sacks in a game against Weatherford, adding two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. He blocked seven kicks in the first seven games, quickly becoming the No. 1 recruit in Texas and the No. 4 overall player in the 2014 class, according to ESPN Recruiting.

Top programs began courting him, and Beaty knew if A&M didn't land Garrett, it almost certainly would face him in the SEC. "A double whammy," he said. Although Garrett visited several Big 12 programs, he said he probably would have ended up at another SEC school.

Brea Garrett knew just how badly the Aggies wanted her baby brother. An NCAA champion thrower for Texas A&M's track team, Brea was asked daily about Myles. Texts rolled in from the football staff. She even stopped by Sumlin's office to provide updates.

Her friends on the football team bugged her, including Moore, who knew the void he was leaving.

"Every day somebody asked me about Myles. Every day!" Brea said, laughing. "Myles was that shiny diamond everyone was trying to get. It was funny to see how bad A&M really wanted Myles because it showed how much they needed him."

Texas made the first scholarship offer but wanted Myles to commit as a junior, which wasn't happening. When Myles and his parents went to LSU for one of Brea's meets, which coincided with the Tigers' spring game, no one greeted them.

Sumlin, a gifted recruiter, put on a show, even flying to one of Garrett's 2013 games in Texas A&M's "Swag Copter." But he had a hard time reading Garrett.

"He's so laid-back, just smiled and didn't say anything," Sumlin said. "I was like, 'This is the guy we watched on video? This is that guy?'"

Turns out, Sumlin didn't need bells and whistles to get Garrett on board.

"We already had an Aggie," said Audrey Garrett, Myles' mother, referring to Brea. "Coach Sumlin was like, 'I don't know how much more I can say.' We were like, 'You don't have to say a word.' [Other schools] came to the table and eventually crossed themselves off.

"It's not that A&M was the last man standing. A&M was the best man standing."

Garrett took his official visit to Texas A&M in September 2013, watching as Manziel nearly led a comeback against Alabama at Kyle Field. This, he concluded, was the place to be.

Still, he waited five weeks to announce his verbal commitment.

"He delayed his announcement in an effort to try to continue the [recruiting] traffic flow through here to help the other guys on our team," Martin coach Bob Wager said. "Myles was getting a lot of traffic, and it gave me an opportunity to help other guys. That's maturity beyond your 17 years.

"I think guys ended up getting some offers because of that."

An uncommon talent

Garrett's rise from high school to Texas A&M went almost seamlessly. As a freshman, he held his own against offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi, a first-team All-SEC selection and first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

"Two Brahman bulls going at it," Price said.

In just his ninth game, Garrett broke the SEC freshman sacks record held by Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He finished with 11.5 sacks, earning second-team All-SEC honors.

A full offseason helped him sharpen his techniques against the run, fortify his body frame and improve his overall effort. At one point, Sumlin received a video from the strength staff showing Garrett moving ungodly amounts of weight.

"I told them, 'Stop, don't do that anymore,'" Sumlin said. "He doesn't have to prove to me he can squat and deadlift any more than that. It was crazy."

Garrett is piling up the highlights this season, including an otherworldly forced fumble on Oct. 3. Mississippi State was in the red zone when Garrett zoomed across the line toward quarterback Dak Prescott, stopped abruptly when Prescott pitched the ball and then chased down running back Aeris Williams, knocking the ball free with his right hand.

There's dispute about Garrett's responsibility on the play -- Price says quarterback, Garrett says pitchman -- but not about the result.

"He took both of them," Price said. "I don't think I've ever seen that happen."

Something else has happened along the way as well. Garrett has become a recruiting chip, much like Manziel was, for the Aggies. Manziel wrecked records at Texas A&M, boosted the program's national profile and brought other elite players to College Station.

Garrett's impact is already being felt with recruits on the defensive side of the ball.

"In the past, just offense recruits saw that you come here and be a star in the SEC," Price said. "Myles has proven you can be one of the best in the country playing defense at Texas A&M."

Her brother's keeper

Texas A&M coaches call Brea their ace recruiter for bringing Myles to campus, a claim she disputes.

"I really didn't do anything," she said. "I wanted him to be happy. I said, 'Go wherever you want, except Texas.' That was just our running joke."

What can't be disputed is how close Brea and Myles are, and how she helped him acclimate as a freshman. Their athletic commitments filled up their schedules, but Sunday always was their day. Brea would cook or they'd go to Applebee's. They'd listen to music or play games.

Other than checking on each other's health, they didn't talk about their sports.

"I had a really good first year because of her," Myles said. "She was there to guide me and show me where my help was."

Brea saw Manziel Mania up close at Texas A&M. She thinks some of the incidents "weren't that big of a deal" but acknowledges that high-profile college athletes, like Manziel and her little brother, are held to a higher standard.

When Myles arrived on campus, her instinct was to protect him, a natural role. Brea is a "physical specimen," according to Myles, and arguably the best athlete in the family. That's saying something for a clan that also includes older brother Sean Williams, a former first-round pick of the New Jersey Nets who played four NBA seasons and now plays in Turkey, and Audrey, who was an All-American hurdler at Hampton University.

Sean's NBA career was blighted by several arrests, but he has guided Myles, often using his own experiences. Despite his struggles with addiction and anger, he's a steadying force among the siblings, the first they go to with problems.

Audrey Garrett nicknames her kids peanut butter and jelly, and while there's disagreement over whether Brea or Myles is the peanut butter, Sean is always the bread.

"He holds it all together," Audrey said.

But Brea's connection to Myles is unique and always will be. She's the one he asked to take him to Germany when he turns 21.

The reason: He wants to have a single beer.

"I'm the big sister, I'm the gatekeeper, I am the troll under the bridge, whatever you want to call me," Brea said. "Nothing comes between the outside world and my brother. But Myles never has really ventured out in the world."

The gate and the bridge are collecting dust.

In August, Brea graduated from A&M and moved to Florida. Myles is on his own, but Brea isn't worried about him. She doesn't get texts about where he's been spotted or whom he's with.

"He's so anti that hype scene, that being-famous, I've-got-to-go-out scene," Brea said. "We don't have to worry about girls getting pregnant or he's going to jail.

"Myles is just trying to play football and learn about dinosaurs."

Ready for the limelight

Football and dinosaurs are about as edgy as Myles Mania gets.

He keeps a low profile, and his family does the same. When Audrey and Lawrence Garrett arrived at Texas A&M's team hotel for an interview before Saturday's game, they wore basic A&M gear, not No. 15 jerseys or shirts reading MYLES' MOM.

"That's him, not us," Lawrence said. "We're just regular parents. If he shines, he shines, but we're not shining."

They're hardworking parents -- Lawrence has put in 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service; Audrey works for BNSF Railway -- and encouraged Myles not to abuse his athletic gifts or define himself by them.

Lesson learned.

"Some athletes take what we have for granted," he said. "They kind of feel, 'I'm here and I earned this, so people who are not on this level should just give me what I want and move out the way.' I feel like everybody's on the same level. Nobody's done anything more important than any other.

"People have gifts in other areas. You weren't blessed with them; they were blessed with them."

Garrett has been blessed with a healthy dose of perspective, not an ounce of privilege.

As Lawrence notes, "[Football] is what he likes to do right now. We don't know what he's going to do next."

Football is in Garrett's plans -- he'd like to play about 10 years in the NFL -- but so are other things.

Myles says he wants to be a philanthropist. He wants to study at an elite paleontology program, like Ohio State's School of Earth Sciences.

He looks forward to making history with his team -- one looking for fossils.

"There's so much effort," he said. "You have to get together a team, you have to find the right place and the chances are so minimal but it's such high reward. It's your chance to solve one of the many mysteries that this world has.

"It's finding something that's never been discovered."

Texas A&M has never discovered a football player quite like Myles Garrett.

A different dude, indeed.