Two months after being shot, Haskell Garrett dazzled in season debut for Ohio State

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Less than two months ago, Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett was shot in the face trying to break up an altercation near campus.

It wasn’t clear until late last week that he would be medically cleared to play in Saturday’s season opener against Nebraska.

Then on Saturday, Garrett was constantly a disruptive force, getting a sack and drawing two holding calls to earn defensive player of the game honors in the Buckeyes’ 52-17 victory.

“It felt awesome,” Garrett said Tuesday in a conference call with Ohio State reporters. “I felt great being out there and playing with my brothers.”

The senior from Las Vegas was expected to be a pillar in a group of mostly inexperienced defensive tackles this season. That was put in jeopardy on Aug. 30 when he was shot in the cheek while trying to break up an argument near campus, according to a police report.

Garrett didn’t want to rehash the incident on Tuesday. But once doctors assured him that his injury wasn’t career-ending, he was determined to do everything possible to prepare for the season. Beginning only five days after he was shot, Garrett spent extra time meeting with defensive line coach Larry Johnson in his office and studying video while waiting to be cleared medically.

Once he was, who knew how much the injury and time off would affect his game? In Ohio State’s first practice in pads, center Josh Myers found out right away: not at all.

“We ran an outside zone play,” Myers said. “He got my number on it. I was not ready for it. Man, he came off the ball so hard. I could just tell he was so happy and excited to be back. I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’

“I don't know what all he did at home during the quarantine, but the way he came off the ball was different. It was different than the way he did before, and it's different than most players I have ever played against.”

Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) celebrates a tackle with teammate Tommy Togiai on Saturday against Nebraska. Haskell had a sack and drew two holding penalties less than two months after being shot in the face while trying to break up an altercation near campus.

He was that way against Nebraska, showing both strength and quickness. It was particularly important because the interior defensive line is a question mark for the Buckeyes.

“I'm not surprised because I know what Haskell is capable of, but I am really impressed with the way he played,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “You've got to give a lot of credit to everybody involved to get him ready to play at that level after such a traumatic event.

“So while I wasn't surprised in his ability on the field, it was pretty impressive to see that quick turnaround. If he can continue that, he can have a major impact on our defense at a position that we all had our eyes on going into this first game.”

Day and Garrett said it was a team effort to get him ready to play, from doctors and the team’s medical staff to teammates and his friends and family.

Garrett said he had a series of surgeries on his mouth, including a bone graft.

“I'm missing a total of five teeth,” he said.

Garrett said he’s able to eat some soft foods but is mostly limited to a liquid diet, heavy on protein shakes to maintain his strength.

He and his teammates are just grateful that he has been able to recover.

“Personally, I was terrified because I woke up (the morning of the shooting) and had no idea what was going on and obviously was very, very scared," Myers said. “I love Haskell. Our entire team loves Haskell, and we're just so thankful that he's safe. It's a miracle he's with us.”

Myers said Garrett’s personality makes him popular with his teammates.

“The best personality you could ask for, an amazing guy who treats everybody super-well,” Myers said. “He works really hard and knows when to handle his business and when to have a good time.”

He had the best time, he said, on Saturday.

“They wanted me to be out there, and I’m a leader in the unit,” Garrett said. “The guys are leaning on me as much as I lean on them. It was just really emotional and a very blessed opportunity to go out there and be with them.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett tackles Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey during the second quarter on Saturday.