You can say Myles Garrett’s talents are entirely God-given. You can believe his incredibly chiseled physique is purely genetic. You can assume that if anyone else was born Myles Garrett, they’d be in the exact same position he’s in today.
Just don’t tell that to anyone who’s been with him since the beginning.
They know that before Myles Garrett was the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he was an awkward 9th grader at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. He wore glasses and often stumbled over his own massive feet. He was fairly tall—6-foot-2, to be exact—but his frame was skin and bones. His work ethic, admittedly, left something to be desired. It was only after a meeting shortly before his sophomore year that the Myles Garrett we know today began to form.
In addition to football, Garrett also played basketball and ran track at Martin. His football coaches had no problem with him playing multiple sports—in fact, they encouraged it. But the one thing they would not sacrifice is their player’s presence in the weight room. “We were a big 6A school, we were in the highest classification in the state of Texas. But we took a small school approach to athletics. We wanted all our kids to play as many sports as they possibly could,” says Anthony Gonzalez, Garrett’s positional coach at Martin who’s now the head football coach at Lovington High School (Lovington, New Mexico). “But one thing we were not going to sacrifice was that weight room. Going into his sophomore year, there were a couple days Myles didn’t show up after school. Our head coach comes to me and says, ‘where’s this kid at?’”
Turns out that Myles was busy shooting hoops in the gym. Gonzalez—or “Coach Gonzo,” as Garrett refers to him—had a conversation with Myles on the topic. While Myles began showing up to more workouts, he wasn’t nearly as consistent as he needed to be. That’s when Gonzalez decided to call Garrett’s parents—Audrey and Lawrence—in for a meeting with himself, Myles and the team’s head coach. To this day, Gonzalez believes it was Myles’ “light bulb” moment.
“His momma changed that kid’s life that day. It still brings chills to my skin right now—I remember it like it was yesterday. She told him, ‘listen, this isn’t easy. What these coaches are asking isn’t easy. But this is your decision. If this is what you want to be, what you want to do, then you’re going to have to put the work in. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a decision. You’re telling me you want to go play college football and telling me you want to play in the NFL—then do it. You’re not sacrificing anything for anybody, you’re making your decision,’” Gonzalez says. “From then on out, he was a different kid.”
Garrett’s work ethic for his remaining days at Martin would become borderline mythical. Gonzalez—who also served as the school’s strength and conditioning coach—would often find him in the weight room on three separate occasions during the same day. One in the morning during a weight training class that counted as a gym credit in the school’s curriculum. Another immediately after school, right before he was about to head to track or basketball practice. Then at the end of the day—around 7 or 7:30—Gonzalez would come to lock up the weight room. There, with his headphones on and not a single light illuminated inside the facility, was Garrett sweating his way through his third session of the day.
“The media, I feel like they don’t focus on that enough about this kid. He is what he is right now because he’s worked for every little bit he’s got. Yeah, he was born with the frame—but you see a lot of guys walking around with a good-looking frame that don’t amount to much. The guy grinds. He’s put in his work. When I hear people say stuff like, ‘it’s God-given’ or ‘he’s always been like that,’ it burns me up. They don’t know,” Gonzalez says.
Garrett often focused on his footwork during those late-night sessions. His feet have always been gargantuan—he wore a size 18 during high school—and it took him a long time to learn the agility and body awareness he required to be light on his feet. He was aware of this weakness, which is why his routine included a steady diet of footwork drills, plyometrics and speed ladders. “Staying late was my thing,” Garrett recently told STACK. “Just attacking my (workouts). Coach Gonzo really instilled that work ethic in me to go the extra mile with everything.”
Garrett became so obsessed with his training that Gonzo would occasionally have to tell him to pump the brakes. Martin’s football team lifted three times a week during their season—Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Since they also played games on Friday nights, the Friday lift was supposed to be more of a warm-up than anything. Coaches just wanted the players to get a little sweat going and spark their system so they’d be ready for battle come kickoff. But Garrett didn’t always understand that concept. During one Friday pre-game lift, Gonzalez turned around to see him banging out Squats with 315 pounds on the bar. When Garrett reflects on his high school days now, it’s clear that his own potential was the driving force behind his insatiable work ethic.
“Why would you want to look back with regret and wonder what you could’ve really done?” Garrett says. “You’ve got to push through the pain, the sweat and the tears. Push all that to the back of your mind, and look to the now and the future. (Think about) what this could affect. This one rep might get you past the lineman. This one rep might push you into greatness.”
Garrett’s year-by-year stats are a direct reflection of all the work he put in. Getting on-field results from training takes time—a JV player can’t hit it hard for a month and suddenly become the next Reggie White. As a freshman, Garrett didn’t play on varsity. As a sophomore, he played in eight games and had four sacks. As a junior, he recorded nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Then as a senior, Garrett recorded an incredible 20.5 sacks and 39 tackles for loss.
Compare Garrett’s story to LeBron James, who averaged 18 points per game as a freshman at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and was dubbed as the “The Chosen One” by a Sports Illustrated cover during his junior season, and there’s a contrast. LeBron was, in a way, destined for greatness. Garrett forged his own.
“Myles is a humble kid. He kinda keeps his head down and works and doesn’t toot his own horn,” Gonzalez says. “But I’m telling you, you look up the definition of ‘work ethic’ in the dictionary, they should have a picture of Myles Garrett in there. It’s unreal…From day one until the day he walked out of that building, his work ethic was the biggest change and the biggest growth I saw in that young man.”
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