In practice the week before the Buckeyes traveled to Rutgers, graduate defensive end Haskell Garrett approached junior Zach Harrison to challenge him in a race to sack the quarterback.
After he said he outlasted Harrison and broke through the pocket, Garrett shared his technique with the rest of the other, younger defensive lineman, just like how a professor shares insight with their students — and that’s what Garrett has enjoyed more in 2021 than in any other season.
“I get the chance to finally be able to teach and share my knowledge on the defensive line,” Garrett said. “I find it joyful to teach the young guys what I was taught coming up. Being behind the Dre’Mont Jones’, the Bosas’, Chase Young’s, the BB [Robert] Landers’, all those guys that were before me, now I get to share that knowledge that I got from them and pass it down.”
Now in his fifth season at Ohio State, Garrett has been around the block. His 57 tackles during his career lead the Buckeyes, and his 11 starts in that time are tied for most on the team’s defense.
It takes time and work to accumulate those numbers, however. Garrett said he’s playing with a reinvigorated feeling this season, and he wants to spread his energy to the rest of the Buckeyes so they can see similar outcomes.
“It’s not only telling them, but showing them. Nowadays, guys like to see results,” Garrett said. “I feel that with what I tell them and telling them in the classroom and then showing them out in practice, then I can bridge the gap between knowledge and actual results.”
One way Garrett the teacher showed his students came against Rutgers. After the Scarlet Knights scored a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Garrett jumped off the line and blocked the extra point attempt.
“To make plays like that and to have some energy and be a leader like that, that’s what we need on this team,” head coach Ryan Day said. “Those veteran guys playing veteran and acting veteran.”
Garrett’s students and teammates are beginning to see results themselves, and fortunately, he said they’re eager to learn, noting they’re like “sponges.”
Among them include freshmen defensive ends Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau, a pair of five-stars who were near the top of the 2021 recruiting class. The two account for 12 tackles, each with a one for loss.
Sawyer said Garrett keeps the younger defensive linemen in check both on and off the football field, and his guidance makes the captain a great person to be around.
“Haskell is like a big brother to all of us. Obviously, a great guy to learn from as he’s probably the best defensive tackle in the country, I think,” Sawyer said. “He’s always taking us under our wing, making sure we know our plays, which is a big thing for a lot of us. We all love Haskell.”
Tuimoloau said Garrett’s advice amps up the rest of the room, mentioning the captain preaches keeping one’s head up and not dwelling on the previous play.
“Haskell’s a big part of this group,” Tuimoloau said. “That’s what I mean when I talk about relentless effort and toughness is when he does it or anybody else does it, it just brings up the whole unit.”
Over the years, Garrett has faced challenges of his own, whether it’s been grinding for playing time or overcoming an incident where he was shot in the face in August 2020 .
In a game where adversity can strike from a range of reasons, some of Garrett’s best advice comes down to just two words: have fun.
“When I say ‘have fun,’ we take the sport so seriously with schematics, with the pressure that we get through social media, through our families — it’s still just a sport,” Garrett said. “You need to execute your job at a high level because we are Ohio State, but at the end of the day it’s just football.”
Garrett said it’s gratifying to see what Ohio State’s defensive line can do, particularly as the tackles have recorded 11 of the Buckeyes’ 15 sacks.
But nonetheless, no matter how decorated any one player is in the room, Garrett is enjoying his role as a leader of a traditionally storied defensive line room.
“It’s a brotherhood. We all fight for each other,” Garrett said. “With everything that’s transpired this year, it really allows guys to see that we really only have each other. When we’re out on that field, we’re in front of 110,000 people, but ultimately, it’s only 11 guys on that field. That’s who you go to war with.”