Like being preyed upon by a great white shark, Kentwood High School football coach Rex Norris could see and feel the steely cold eyes of Puyallup (Wash.)
offensive lineman Josh Garnett
staring at him as he drove one of his better and bigger defensive ends out of bounds.
"He just launched our kid into the sideline," Norris told Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers. "I've never seen such a quality kid so dominated. I just picked up our kid, slapped him on the rear and said ‘that's one big boy out there. Now go give it another try.'
"What else can you say or do?"
Indeed, the mammoth 6-foot-4, 300-pound 17-year-old is a mountain of a boy and with a vertical jump of 28 inches, a superb 4.68-second time in the agility shuttle and tremendous strength, he simply swallows up and spits out average high school football players.
And what helps separate the nation's No. 43 recruit, according to the Tom Lemming Top 100 list
, is a rather nasty and relentless disposition.
Watch him on film and he doesn't just blow open holes, but he punishes opponents into submission, often deep into the real or artificial turf. Different surface, same result. See video
When asked Thursday what he loves most about football, the bright and articulate standout said: "For an hour-and-a-half, within parameters and with pads and equipment, you legally get the chance to beat the crap out of another kid," said Garnett, whose father Scott played defensive line in the NFL. "And after 45 seconds or so, you get to do it all over again."
There's an honest answer.
And Garnett was just getting started.
He said he really needs to work on negating personal foul penalties, noting that he doesn't really like quarterbacks – he also plays defensive end - and when getting punched during the fray of the action he more than punches back.
Being the Big Kahuna on the field, Garnett often got noticed, thus the numerous yellow hankies.
"Let's just say I did a lot of extra running at practice (disciplinary action for getting flagged)," Garnett said.
So how many flags are we talking about? One per game?
"I'd say closer to three," he said quite honestly. "It's just that once I'm locked in I have sort of tunnel vision and I don't always hear the whistle. The referees kind of know who I am."
Don't get the idea Garnett is some sort of lug head. He's a 3.8 student who someday wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.
His wit and maturity is striking during a first-time 15-minute discussion over the phone. And those who really know him, can't stop gushing.
"He's a great kid and a great teammate," Jeffers said. "He's a special, special kid and great leader and hard worker. He's a very sincere young man and some times I have to remind myself he's just 17 years old. "
Mason Kelley, a preps writer for the Seattle Times, recently interviewed Garnett for a video segment
and was struck not only by his sheer mass, but his genuine nature.
"He just seemed honored and humbled by all the attention," Kelley said.
Garnett acknowledges that he needs to curb back his competitive edge on the field somewhat – or at least remember to slow down after the whistle.
"I need to try to slow it down, to stay under control somewhat and finish my block without going overboard," he said. "I can still bring the wood without unleashing all this teenage angst."
At the same time he takes great pride in his self-imposed dual nickname "double-trouble" with best friend and teammate Nick Wisor
, a 6-5, 215-pound receiver who Garnett said runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, runs precise routes, is a Division I recruit and who recently dominated a 7-on-7 tournament.
Garnett sounded more like a sports agent than a surgeon or WWF bad boy than he sometimes displays on the field. But that speaks to his loyalty as a good friend more than being a promoter.
"We've been best friends since the first grade," Garnett said.
They're also workout partners and with the help of conditioning coach Brian Peterson, physicality is a big part of Garnett's game.
"He's so strong in the weight room but beyond that his flexibility and athleticism are off the charts," Jeffers said. "If he wanted to be state champion (discus or shot putter) or basketball star he could. "
But he's a one-trick pony for now and that's the way college recruiters like it. Garnett said he's enjoyed the recruiting process thus far and plans to visit Michigan when the Wolverines play Notre Dame on Sept. 10. He's considering both schools.
He also plans a trip to Miami, even with all the hot water the program is in.
"There's a lot of schools out there on the radar (of the NCAA), so I'm just going to wait and hear all the information that comes out," Garnett said about Miami. "My recruiting right now is wide open."
Garnett is part of a remarkable class of offensive linemen in the state of Washington, which also includes the nation's No. 17 recruit Zach Banner (Lakewood)
, another mountain child at 6-8, 295.
Lemming said there are four blue-chippers from Washington, including tackles Walker Williams
(Tacoma Baptist), who is headed to Wisconsin, and Washington-bound Nathan Dean
from Juanita (Kirkland, Wash.)
Kelley said Garnett and Banner were at a recent photo shoot and for fun, did a little route running and coverage drill.
"I can't remember who was receiver and who played DB, but as big as those guys are you'd think they'd be awkward out there," Kelley said. "Instead, it just looked like normal athletic guys going after passes. Normal except they are both monstrous."
Lemming thinks Garnett looks as good or better than Banner on film, however being four inches shorter makes him just slightly a lesser recruit.
"Nevertheless, he has what it takes to become an All-American at either tackle or guard in college," Lemming said of Garnett. "He loves to mix it up, shows good work habits and plays the game on his feet."
Unless he's driving a poor kid to the ground.