- Covers the Big 12
- Joined ESPN.com in 2011
- Graduate of Washington & Lee University
BEREA, Ohio — Bryan Hinton has been playing pickup basketball for more than two decades. The software manager, however, had never played against anyone like Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who early this summer began showing up at Hinton’s biweekly lunchtime pickup game.
“He was making highlights almost every day,” said Hinton, who lives in Austin, Texas. “But two-thirds of the time he would just stay outside and shoot long 3-pointers. He wasn’t trying to mix it up too much inside, which was good for the rest of us — because we wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.”
At summer’s end, Hinton, along with teammate Jackson Harmer, would have an experience not all that different from the one Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields endured on Sunday. Off a fast break, the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Garrett went behind his back, slashed past Hinton, then elevated before dunking with his right hand, sending Harmer tumbling to the hardwood.
“As [Harmer] was standing up, I told him, ‘Well, the good news is, you’re going to be on YouTube,'” recalled Hinton, whose facial reaction to the slam captured on video happened to go viral, as well. “That was one of his better dunks. But that wasn’t his only one.”
Just as he piled up dunks this summer, Garrett has already been piling up sacks this season. The Cleveland star pass-rusher had 4.5 sacks against Fields on Sunday, setting a new franchise single-game record. He has 5.5 through three games, which leads the NFL.
“He’s a ‘monstar,’ man,” said Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, aptly referencing the villains who steal NBA players’ physical talents in the movie “Space Jam.” “It’s unreal. He’s out there eating.”
Garrett’s feats of strength, however, don’t stop on the gridiron, where teammates say he could easily play ironman football if he wanted to.
“If he put his mind to it, he could be a beast of a tight end,” said Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, who, despite arguably being the fastest player in this rookie class, finds himself marveling at Garrett’s speed. “Some days in practice, he’ll be the top sprinter, running 20 miles an hour.”
Garrett seemingly can do most anything athletically, from bombing home runs in softball games to destroying weight room equipment. Even the carnival games from his high school prom didn’t stand a chance against him.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski mercifully might have spared Hinton and Harmer from any more viral dunks, “retiring” Garrett from playing hoops in June. But that just might be temporary.
“I feel it’s more like a Jordan retirement,” Garrett said then of Stefanski’s edict. “Next season, you never know. I might go back to basketball, I might go play baseball, see if I can get on a team.”
Garrett isn’t afraid to boast, and justifiably so.
Over the summer, Garrett — who actually has trained with former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, a Cleveland native and Browns fan — casually noted in an interview that he would “beat the brakes off of Logan Paul” in a boxing match. When Paul’s brother, Jake, compared Garrett to 5-foot-9 former NBA player Nate Robinson, whom Jake knocked out last year, his teammates couldn’t help but respond with laughing emojis.
They, after all, have seen what Garrett can do up close in person.
Just this training camp, he challenged fellow edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick who is also known for his elite physical traits, to a race on the ski exercise machine. Except a few seconds into that race, Garrett ripped the chains out of the machine.
“I was just like, damn, that’s a superhuman right there, because that machine ain’t no joke,” Schwartz said. “Being able to break a machine like that, that’s just something else.”
Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry never saw Garrett break the ski machine. But he did see Garrett launch a home run over the center-field fence during Landry’s celebrity softball game in the Cleveland area just before the start of minicamp in June.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Landry said. “Once in a generation.”
Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. agrees. And he now knows better than to compete against Garrett.
“I used to challenge him to touchdowns vs. sacks,” Beckham said, “and I just realized it was not a good ratio for me.”
Beckham said that seeing Garrett one day rack up seven or eight sacks in a game wouldn’t surprise him. In high school, that actually happened, as he once had 8.5 sacks, to go along with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. Yet even that might not have been Garrett’s most memorable physical exploit from his high school days in Arlington, Texas.
After prom, one of the carnival games included pulling a bungee cord as far away from the wall as possible. Garrett accidentally yanked the cord straight out of the wall, prompting the game’s operator to simply hand over all the remaining tickets. That alone gave Garrett enough to buy another student a television.
“It missed me, I was very glad,” Garrett said of the snapping cord. “If it would’ve hit me anywhere, I would’ve had to go to the hospital.”
Neither Hinton nor Harmer had to go to the hospital after getting dunked on by Garrett this summer.
“Only injured egos,” Hinton said.
For now, Garrett is content to just continue injuring the egos of opposing offensive players. As an athlete who harkens back to the days of ironman football. And one the league has maybe never seen before.
“To me, he’s just that one,” Beckham said. “The things he can do are incredible.”
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