Haskell Garrett just keeps getting better for Ohio State defense
Haskell Garrett made an amazing play in practice last week.
To hear him tell it, it happened during walk-throughs on Thursday. He tipped a pass, caught it and ran it back for a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 299-pound senior defensive tackle from Las Vegas was pretty psyched. After all, he’d never done anything like that in a game.
Until Saturday against Michigan State.
In a weird coincidence, life imitated practice when Garrett got his hand up at the perfect time, tipping a pass in the end zone from Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Haskell then showed tremendous athleticism for someone his size — he leapt into the air, looking like he was doing a big man’s Lebron James imitation — and came down with the interception for a touchdown.
It was the first interception and touchdown of the senior’s 38-game college career — and it helped the Buckeyes put the Spartans away early in a 52-12 victory.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 5, 2020
“The last time I had an interception or a touchdown of any sort was in high school,” Garrett said afterward. “It reassures me that I’m putting the right work in now and I’m doing the right things. It was very emotional. I was just happy to change the momentum of the game and to light the fire. It was pretty wild.”
Of course, it’s not the wildest thing that’s happened to Garrett this season.
Not even close.
‘Through and through’
It’s not an exaggeration to say Haskell Garrett is lucky to be alive.
Last August, the Ohio State lineman was attempting to break up a fight in Columbus — it’s just the kind of guy he is — when he was shot.
More specifically, he was shot in the face. Guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished, right?
Police called it a “through-and-through” wound, meaning the bullet went in, and came right back out. In this case, the shot went through Garrett’s mouth, resulting in a two-day hospital stay and a series of surgeries. Any kind of football was off limits for a while, as he lost five teeth and had to go on a liquid diet (not great for an athlete who wants to stay at a certain weight).
But he knew it could’ve been so much worse. He could’ve lost his life.
Garrett was just thankful for the chance to see another day, but he was also eager to get back to work. He hoped to make the Buckeyes first game against Nebraska on Oct. 24. That gave him two months to come back.
Amazingly, he not only made it back, he made a huge difference in the game. He chalked it up to his preparation — even while in the hospital.
“I couldn’t do anything physically but I could do stuff mentally,” Garrett said after the season-opening victory, where he notched 2 tackles and a sack. “Just being prepared, be ready to do anything and everything to help the team.”
“You can’t (imagine) the impact that has on his teammates and the defense in general, how he got back on the field in such a short period of time,” defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said after the Nebraska win.
‘A great story’
His impressive efforts have continued throughout the season, as Garrett has been one of the most important players on defense, leading from a position where many thought the Buckeyes would struggle. He has become a consistent weapon, someone who can clog up the middle or get after opposing quarterbacks. Simply, the defense is better when he’s on the field.
That was true again on Saturday.
Larry Johnson, Ohio State’s defensive line coach, teaches the “mirror hand” technique, which analyst Dan Orlovsky referenced after Garrett’s touchdown Saturday. The technique illustrates how most defensive players will raise their right hand to try and block a quarterback’s pass, when they really should use their left, or mirror hand, when facing a right-handed quarterback.
Check out Garrett doing just that to get the deflection. And to top it off, his position coach was filling in as the head man for the game, as head coach Ryan Day was out due to COVID-19.
“It’s pretty athletic to tip it and catch your own tip, that’s pretty good,” said Johnson, the interim coach. “What a great story, though. Haskell Garrett, here’s a guy that’s probably lucky that he’s still here, but yet continuing to play great football and do great things for us. I’m really proud of where he’s at right now and the things he’s doing for our defense.”
“I was just doing my job,” Garrett said of his big play. “I made a play. Like Coach (Urban) Meyer says, ‘Good players make big plays.’ I was just at the right spot at the right time.”
Coaches and fans agree — he’s doing his job pretty well.
After what Garrett’s been through, it’s just one of many reasons why they’re glad to have him back.