College football’s Outland Trophy winner and his best bud from Puyallup High School still meet for dinners. They go to the Applebee’s on South Hill when they are back home.
“That’s our spot,” Joshua Garnett says of Jacob Leonard, the former classmate.
Could his hometown Seahawks select the ninth unanimous All-America in Stanford history, and one of the top-rated guards, in the NFL draft that begins April 28?
“That would be a dream come true,” Garnett told The News Tribune in February at the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.
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Garnett grew up off Shaw Road, east of Highway 512, in Pierce County. And, yes, he met with representatives of his hometown team at the combine.
“I met with coach (Pat) Ruel and some of the offensive-line guys. I had a great conversation. I’d love to go back home,” said the former Puyallup Vikings standout, son of ex-Washington Husky and NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett. “We’ve talked about that.”
Barring a prepick trade — for which general manager John Schneider has become known — Seattle is poised to pick in the first round of the draft, for the first time since 2012, at No. 26 overall.
The Seahawks haven’t spent a first-round choice on an offensive lineman since 2011, when they drafted James Carpenter. Carpenter, the 25th pick that year, went on to start at guard for Seattle until signing a free-agent contract with the New York Jets before the 2015 season.
The Seahawks’ biggest need is as obvious and integral as their scowling-bird logo: to upgrade their shaky offensive line, which lost left tackle Russell Okung and guard J.R. Sweezy to free agency in March. Both Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, have highlighted that need all offseason.
Schneider and Carroll said at the league meetings in Florida last month that 2015 starting right tackle Garry Gilliam will compete with Bradley Sowell, signed in March for one year as a free agent from Arizona, to replace Okung at left tackle.
They’ve said Mark Glowinski, their 2015 draft choice, will get the chance to replace Sweezy at right guard.
However, Justin Britt struggled as Seattle’s left guard last season. He was the starting right tackle as a rookie in 2014, including in Super Bowl 49. It’s conceivable that Britt and J’Marcus Webb, whom the Seahawks signed from Oakland to a two-year contract in March, will be competing to be the new right tackle during training camp this summer.
That could leave left guard up for grabs. Would the Seahawks make Joshua Garnett’s hometown dream come true?
Tacoma’s Rob Rang, of NFLDraftScout.com, sees Garnett as a possible late first-round or second-round pick — and a possibility for the Seahawks. Rang says “Garnett is one of the few plug-and-play” interior linemen ready for the NFL because of Stanford’s pro-style offense, which is becoming rare in spread-obsessed college football.
Not to mention, Garnett is good. And big. He was 6 feet 5 and 312 pounds at the combine. That was down from 325 in 2012, when he became the first true freshman to start on the offensive line in a dozen years at Stanford. Garnett also played some tight end and even fullback that season.
He won the Outland Trophy this past winter as the best interior lineman in college football. Rang ranks Garnett, Notre Dame center Nick Martin and Alabama center Ryan Kelly as the best interior linemen in the draft.
Garnett’s intent for blocking defenders on each snap?
“Run through their souls,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” he confirmed. “You just run through them. Go right through them.”
The Seahawks could use some soul-crushing by their linemen. They allowed 31 sacks in their first seven games last season. They have often won — playoff games and even a Super Bowl — in spite of their challenged offensive line in the last three seasons.
Garnett is a human-biology major at Stanford; its premed curriculum is one reason he chose Stanford instead of following his dad to UW. So he has a decent fallback plan beyond the NFL.
“I want to be a trauma surgeon after football is all over,” he said. “I worked in a cell-biology lab this past summer, did a stint in an ER for some shadowing.
“I just love being able to see the high-intensity environment. Everyone’s working together. The quarterback is the head doctor. You have the nurses, kind of the offensive linemen of the thing, doing the dirty work, but not getting the credit for it.
“But everyone is real locked in and working as a team. That is something I saw myself doing everyday with my teammates on the football field. The transition from football field to trauma surgeon would be a thing where I wouldn’t have to give up my competitive nature, and I’d be able to work as a member of the team and be able to help people out. I feel that’s something I can truly transition to.”
The fact that Seahawks’ line coaches already have met with Garnett doesn’t necessarily mean his football dream is about to come true. Seattle had a maximum of 60 such interviews at the combine, plus many more informal ones.
And the team is known among past draft choices and agents for hiding its true interests. Many Seahawks have said in the moments after they got drafted by Seattle that they had barely met with or heard from the team leading up to getting picked by it.
Garnett is hoping the Seahawks’ interest in him is real.
He smiled in a corridor of Lucas Oil Stadium in February as he talked about Puyallup.
“The value I learned from Puyallup is, it’s a really small town,” he said. “I mean, it’s a farm community, a small town. A lot of values I got were looking out for your neighbor, which is something that is really important in Puyallup. And looking out for your friends.
“ There weren’t a lot of us, and so you had to stick together, band together. That is something that I learned going to a bigger city, Palo Alto, and being near San Francisco.”
And he’d like to use that knowledge in a return near his hometown. As in, with the Seahawks.