Puyallup’s Joshua Garnett has met with the Seahawks here at the NFL scouting combine. And the All-America guard from Stanford says it would be “a dream come true” to be drafted by and play for his hometown team.
“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,” the former Puyallup High School Vikings standout and son of ex-Washington Husky and NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett told me Wednesday inside Lucas Oil Stadium. “We’ve talked about that. That’d be a dream come true.”
The Seahawks are here in Indianapolis poised to pick in the first round of the draft for the first time since 2012, at No. 26 overall. They haven’t spent a first-round choice on an offensive lineman since 2011 with James 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 11 months ago.
The Seahawks’ biggest need is this offseason is to upgrade its shaky line that is likely to be losing at least left tackle Russell Okung to free agency in March. Both general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, who was due to speak here Thursday afternoon, have highlighted that need in the last month.
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Seattle will know by the time the draft starts April 28 if it has back starting right guard J.R. Sweezy -- or whether he left as a free agent, too. One scenario, even if the Seahawks re-sign Sweezy: Seattle moving Garry Gilliam, last season’s right tackle, to left tackle to replace Okung and moving 2015 left guard Justin Britt back to right tackle, where he started as a rookie in 2014. That would leave a need a left guard.
Tacoma’s Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com is here at the combine, as always. Our local draft guru says Garnett sees Garnett as a possible late first-round or second-round pick -- and a possibility for the Seahawks. As Rang put it Thursday, “Garnett is one of the few plug-and-play” interior lineman ready for the NFL because of Stanford’s pro-style offense, which is becoming rare in college football.
Not to mention, he’s good. And big, at 6 feet 5 and 312 pounds here, down from 325 as a Stanford freshman. Garnett won the Outland Trophy this winter as the best interior lineman in college football. He is the ninth unanimous All-America in Stanford history. He is rated as one of top guards in this draft. Rang says he, Notre Dame center Nick Martin and Alabama center Ryan Kelly are the best three interior linemen here at the combine.
For what it’s worth, Garnett got the bigger podium treatment in front of a bank of cameras and lights reserved for interviews of top prospects here instead of assorted round tables in the dark and back of the suite lounge area inside this cavernous stadium.
In his formal media interview Wednesday, he mentioned his intent for blocking defenders on each snap: “Run through their souls.”
“Yes, sir,” he confirmed. “You just run through them. Go right through them.”
The Seahawks allowed 31 sacks in their first seven games last season. They have often won despite their offensive line the last three seasons. They could use some of that.
Garnett is a human-biology major at Stanford, so he has a decent fall-back 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 the Seahawks’ line coaches have already met with Garnett doesn’t necessarily mean his football dream is about to come true. Seattle has a maximum of 60 such interviews here, plus many more informal ones. And the team is notorious among past draft choices and agents for often hiding their truest interests; many Seahawks have said in the moments after they got drafted by Seattle they barely met with or heard from the team leading up to getting picked by it.
Garnett -- and much of eastern Pierce County -- are hoping the Seahawks’ interest in him here is real.
He smiled in a cooridor of the Colts’ stadium Wednesday as he walked and talked about Puyallup while being whisked by a league staffer to his next tests and rounds of team interviews. Garnett recalled how he and his best bud growing up, Jacob Leonard, a fellow Puyallup High graduate, still meet for dinners at the Applebee’s up on South Hill when they are back home.
“That’s our spot,” said Garnett, who grew up off Shaw Road east of Highway 512.
“The value I learned from Puyallup is, it’s a really small town. ... 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. That 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.”