August 9, 2014 6:14:51 PM
Bob Reeves recalls seeing the spark in Jared Garrett's eyes.
Reeves admits he doesn't remember the date Garrett had his epiphany watching the New Hope High School football team practice, but he sensed a change in Garrett when he was with the kids and coaches. He had a feeling, too, that his former player at New Hope High would one day opt to join him in the coaching profession.
"You could always see how excited he got out there with the guys and being out there with me and the other coaches," said Reeves, a former assistant football coach who is now an assistant football coach at Long Beach High.
"I kind of knew when he was in that period of time and a little unsure about what he wanted to do (that he would get into coaching and teaching). He came around a little more often, and when I got the call (that told him what Garrett was going to do) I wasn't surprised he was going to get into coaching."
After helping out with the Columbus High baseball team earlier this year, Garrett has taken over as the new baseball coach at Columbus Christian School in Steens. Garrett also will work with coach Greg Watkins as an assistant coach on the school's varsity football team and be the school's junior varsity football coach.
"In late May, I heard about the job and was really interested in it because it gave me a chance to coach football and to be a head baseball coach. That was exciting," said Garrett, 26, who is originally from New Hope. "You really don't get a chance coming right out of college to become a head baseball coach. I am excited about that opportunity. I feel really blessed to do that."
Garrett played baseball for three years for coach Stacy Hester at New Hope High before graduating from the school in 2006. He also played football in his senior year. That was the year Reeves had a chance to see a player he remembers not being the biggest or the strongest in action. But Reeves said Garrett made up for what he lacked in size and strength with an "unbelievable" sense of team and drive.
"As a first-year high school coach, he one of the kind of kids you dream about having on the team," Reeves said. "If we asked him to eat a bucket full of nails for the team to be successful, he would do it."
Garrett went into the Air Force after graduating from New Hope High and then volunteered for a tour in Iraq in 2007. He went back to Iraq in 2009 before leaving the military in 2010. When Garrett returned home, he enrolled at Mississippi State to begin his studies. He considered becoming a physical therapist or studying business before discovering coaching and teaching was the ideal thing for him.
Garrett did the first part of his student teaching last school year at Columbus High. He did the second part of his student teaching at
Franklin Academy in Columbus. He graduated from MSU in May and soon thereafter heard about the opening at Columbus Christian, which used to be Immanuel Christian School.
Garrett will replace Greg Collier, who spent one semester at the school. Daniel Merchant, an assistant football coach at West Lowndes High, and Rob Barron, also have coached the baseball team at Columbus Christian in the past five years. And while the school's football and boys basketball team's have had success in that stretch, the baseball team has struggled. Garrett hopes he can change that.
Watkins said Garrett is part of a revamped football coaching staff that also includes newcomer Dustin Murphy, a part-time coach who also played at New Hope High, and Antwann Rich rdson, a volunteer, who helped Watkins last year with football and boys basketball.
"He has adjusted real quick and hit the ground running," Watkins said. "He is real energetic and excited about football, and he is excited about baseball. He has gotten the respect of the kids real quick. When you come out and hit the ground running and work real hard, the kids really respect that."
Watkins believes Garrett's youth, energy, and background in the military and baseball experience from New Hope High will help him be successful. He said Garrett is learning and absorbing everything he can with the football team, and that he couldn't be happier with the hire.
Former Columbus High baseball coach Jeff Cook, who is now an assistant football coach at South Pontotoc, said Garrett was always asking questions this past season to learn why the Falcons did things in different situations. He said Garrett's background made him an asset on a team that went 23-8 and defeated Olive Branch and Clinton in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North State playoffs before losing to Tupelo.
"I thought he did a good job discipline wise with that military background," Cook said. "That military type, disciplined background is going to be one of his stronger points in coaching. I am real happy he was able to get a spot so soon.
"He is not coming in wide-eyed. He has been there and done that. He has seen the world and he will be able to tell kids about real-life situations and how he was able to handle them in a tough environment. I think he is going to do a good job at Columbus Christian."
Reeves agrees because he sees a parallel between Garrett and Michael Bradley, one of his former bosses at New Hope High. Bradley, who is
now the football coach at South Pontotoc High, also has a military background and used his experiences to instill toughness and tenacity in the school's football program. The Trojans had their best success in the past decade under Bradley, advancing to the MHSAA Class 5A North State title game in 2009
"Coach Bradley and coach Garrett completely understand the power of mental toughness," Reeves said. "There were many times, particularly early on at New Hope, when we were not as good as the team we were playing, but when it got down to a tight spot in the game we were mentally tougher because coach Bradley and the rest of the coaching staff instilled that in them.
Talking to coach Garrett this summer, he has used some of that in their summer training. I really see discipline. I see a team that is coached by him having discipline, unity, and a fight that won't quit. Those are all things coach Bradley and coach Garrett not necessarily learned in the military, but they refined those traits in the military."
Garrett, who was recently married to the former Annie Cate Cregeen, believes his military service will help him relate to student-athletes and will give him plenty of lessons about sacrifice, teamwork, and perseverance he will be able to use in the classroom and on the fields. He said he loved his time at Columbus High and knew that teaching and coaching was the right fit for him.
It might have taken some time for Garrett to find the right path, but now that he is on it he is going to do his best to develop the same trust and love he saw Reeves and the coaches at New Hope High build with their players.
"You could tell the way they listened to him that they really respected him," Garrett said. "Looking from the outside, I felt they wanted to do better because he was around and they wanted to perform for him. You could tell he changed the lives of those kids.
"When you're in the military, you learn a lot of values. When I went off at 18 years old I really wasn't as grown up as I should have been. I had to grow up really quick, but I learned a lot being in the military. I learned how to be selfless and to put others before myself. That is what I want to instill in these kids. We need kids to grow up to be good adults and to give back to the community. ... I want to pass on good values to those kids and, hopefully, they pass those on to others."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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