“I’m going to make you tap out.”
Those were the words Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told Myles Garrett during the team’s pre-draft workout with the prodigious pass rusher.
The workout—which was held on Texas A&M’s campus in College Station, Texas—was the equivalent of Garrett’s final exam. If he passed, the Browns would deem him worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. Williams ensured the test was difficult enough to discern between a good player and a player capable of changing the fortunes of a franchise. “From his own words, he was trying to make me tap out,” Garrett recently told STACK.
Williams designed the workout to mimic the rigors of an exhausting NFL game. He’d heard the concerns about Garrett’s effort—how certain scouts believed he took plays off during his final season at A&M to protect his health and his NFL future—and now was his chance to get answers. “My goal was to make him uncomfortable, and winded as f***, and to see how he’d react,” Williams told NFL.com.
“I didn’t respond too well to (Williams saying he was going to make me tap out),” Garrett said. “Because I’m going to be the very last person to give up in any drill. I’m going to go until I can’t.”
Williams’ challenge lit a fire in Garrett, who seemed incapable of getting winded during the hellacious workout. The biggest challenge of the session was a simulated 15-play drive—a relative marathon in the NFL, as the league averaged 5.61 plays per drive in 2016—punctuated with conditioning drills like up-downs and full-field sprints. Cheating on reps or pulling up before a cone would be a sure sign of weakness in Williams’ eyes. “We were doing up-downs, pass-rushing drills, we ran to the goal line a couple times—anything that could wear me out,” Garrett said. “I made sure I sprinted to the cone (every time) and just finished. I was making sure I was doing everything he said every single time.”
Williams cranked the intensity even higher as Garrett got closer to the end of the simulated drive. “We got all the way down near the goal line, and I kicked it up to 10 up-downs, thinking he might collapse or quit or say ‘To hell with this,’ Williams said. “He just did them and lined up, and on the next play, he came off the edge like I’ve maybe seen two people in my life—Bruce Smith and Jevon Kearse.”
That’s Williams’ way of saying Garrett aced his final exam. Smith—the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft—is the only player in league history with 200 career sacks. Kearse—the 16th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft—was a three-time Pro Bowler who once had 14.5 sacks in a season.
When Garrett needs to find that extra gear—like he did during the excruciating private workout—he thinks about his future. “You’ve got to push through the pain, the sweat, the tears—everything. You’ve got to push all that to the back of your mind, and look forward to the future. (Think about) what this one thing could affect. This one rep might get you past or off the lineman. That one rep might push you to into greatness.”
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