Oregon State's new offensive coordinator says he loves the college game

CORVALLIS -- John Garrett has spent most of his coaching career in the NFL. But his three seasons as wide receivers coach under Al Groh at Virginia (2004-06) left Oregon State's new offensive coordinator with a very good feeling for the college game.

"I love college football," Garrett said from his new office at Valley Football Center. "At Virginia, I loved the pageantry, the special feeling on game day. All the fans and the people were very supportive of the program. They are alums or from the area, and they rooted so purely in support of the team.

"It was a great experience. I love being around a college campus. I'm looking forward to experiencing that again here at Oregon State."GARRETT

Garrett, who turns 49 on March 2, is from a football family.

Younger brother Jason -- a former NFL quarterback who just completed his fourth season as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys -- is the most famous.

Younger brother Judd, who earned a Super Bowl ring in 1994 as a member of the Dallas practice squad, is the Cowboys' director of pro personnel.

Older brother Jim is the former head coach at their high school alma mater -- University School in Cleveland -- and is now the head of the school's English department, a published writer and poet, as well.

"Jim was a big influence on myself and my two brothers when we were young," John Garrett says. "He taught us how to play football. He spent time teaching us the rules, the game, the techniques, in the backyard and then playing the game that we all chose for a career."

Their father, Jim Garrett, had a major effect, too. A fullback who played two seasons in the NFL, the elder Garrett was head coach of the World Football League Houston Texans and served as an NFL assistant coach for many years.

"He was a great influence," John Garrett says. "It was so much fun growing up around the NFL teams he was with, talking and living football. He had great energy, enthusiasm and passion for the game and for coaching. When we got into high school and started doing things more seriously, he worked a lot with us.

"I always aspired to play at the highest level I could, and after that wanted to coach. He was big part of influencing that decision."

There are eight Garrett kids in all -- four boys and four girls, all with first names starting with "J," including sisters Jane, Jennifer, Janine and Jill.

John is the third youngest of the siblings born to Jim and Jane Garrett, who have been married for 56 years and live in Monmouth Beach, N.J., on the Jersey shore.

John was a receiver who played collegiately at Columbia and Princeton -- he earned a degree in history at the latter Ivy League school -- and was good enough for a cup of coffee in the NFL. He had brief stints with Dallas and Buffalo and was active for two games with Cincinnati. He got into one game with the Bengals, catching two passes for 29 yards in 1989.

When I offered that he could be considered football's version of Moonlight Graham, Garrett laughed.

"He turned out to be a pretty good doctor in saving lives," he said in reference to the character in the film "Field of Dreams" who had one major-league appearance. "I'm just a football coach. But that was a great movie.

"I was always on the bubble, trying to make it (as an NFL player). I was able to make some teams and practice squads, got cut from some teams. But I was with a lot of great players and coaches."

That's for sure. With Dallas in 1988, he played with such as Herschel Walker, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Michael Irvin and Danny White. With Cincinnati in 1989, Garrett played alongside Boomer Esiason, James Brooks and Anthony Munoz. With Buffalo in 1981 -- the Bills reached the Super Bowl, losing to the Washington Redskins 37-24 -- Garrett counted Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Shane Conlan and Cornelius Bennett as teammates.

OSU's new O-coordinator played under coaching legends Sam Wyche at Cincinnati, Tom Landry at Dallas and Marv Levy at Buffalo.

Garrett has coached for Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau at Cincinnati, Vince Tobin at Arizona, Wade Phillips and his brother, Jason, at Dallas, and Greg Schiano at Tampa Bay.

Garrett has coached 15 years in the NFL, all on the offensive side, not counting his first three seasons in the league as a pro personnel assistant with Tampa Bay. He served last season as receivers coach for the Buccaneers.

In 1991, Garrett played for the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football, catching 23 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns. The head coach was Mike Riley. Among those on Riley's coaching staff were Paul Chryst, Greg Newhouse and Jim Gilstrap, who would later serve as assistants for Riley at Oregon State. One of the quarterbacks for the Riders that year was Jason Garrett, in the third season of his 16-year pro career.

John Garrett and Riley have kept in touch through the years. Last month, after Danny Langsdorf resigned as Oregon State's offensive coordinator to coach quarterbacks for the New York Giants, Garrett received a phone call from Joe Baker, an assistant coach with the Cowboys who worked with Riley in New Orleans in 2002.

"Joe said, 'You would love working for Mike,' " Garrett says. "He called Mike, and Mike reached out to me soon after."

Garrett's interest in the position has everything to do with Riley.

"I respect him so much as a coach for what he has done at Oregon State," Garrett says. "He is a really smart guy, a wonderful person with great character. He'll be very good to work with and be around.

"He has had such great productivity in the passing game and developing players here at all positions. It's a great testament to him and the program to produce players who do well in the NFL. That's doesn't always happen in college. There are a lot of programs that have good college players who don't transfer to the pros. Oregon State has been able to get players to transition well to the NFL.

"I'm thrilled for this opportunity to be a part of Oregon State, to be a part of Beaver Nation."

Garrett isn't concerned about making the transition from the NFL to the college game.

"I've done it before," he says. "I've gone from college to pro and from the pros to college. Football is football. Mike runs a pro-style offense, so there are a lot of concepts I've run and have a lot of experience with.

"Football-wise, I don't think it will be a difficult transition. There are concepts here they do that I'm excited to learn about and be exposed to as you constantly try to develop your football knowledge."

One of Garrett's chief missions will be to help resurrect an OSU run game that has been moribund for several seasons.

"We'll look at last season and analyze the run game as we go through the (video) cut-ups -- but really, every aspect of the offense," he says. "We'll fine-tune it and emphasize the things we want to do, eliminate the things aren't going to be good for us. We'll create a good, balanced attack. That's what everybody wants. The good teams run the ball and throw the ball effectively."

In less than a week in Corvallis, Garrett has established a connection with senior quarterback Sean Mannion.

"Sean is fantastic," Garrett says. "We met during my interview. Since I've been here, he has been diligent to come the office and watch (video) together as I get familiar with the offense. He's really a smart guy, a talented player who loves football, loves the process, loves to watch (video). It's been great to get to know him."

Garrett and his wife of 20 years, have four children -- son John Jr. (18) and daughters Honor Ruth (17), Olivia (15) and Caroline (12). For the time being, the family remains in Tampa while Garrett starts his job in Corvallis.

For now, it's full speed ahead for the Beavers' O-coordinator. The start of spring practice is less than two months away.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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