COLUMBUS — Stories about comebacks and dealing with adversity are common in football because it is a game that produces a lot of injuries.
But Ohio State senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett’s comeback story is different than most of them.
He was on the field playing — and playing well — in Ohio State’s season opener against Nebraska last Saturday just two months after being shot in the face near OSU’s campus.
Garrett sacked Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez in the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ 52-17 win over the Cornhuskers. It was the first sack of the former 4-star recruit’s career at Ohio State. He played 23 snaps in a back-up role and was named the defensive player of the game.
Garrett told Columbus police he was attempting to break up an argument between a man and a woman he didn’t know when the man shot him and the bullet went through both of his cheeks around 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 30. No suspect has been identified.
Garrett said he did not want to talk about the incident on a Zoom conference with reporters on Tuesday.
But the injuries and surgeries he did talk about made the severity of the incident clear and also indicated how lucky he was that he was not struck two or three inches in a different direction.
He has had several surgeries, including a bone graft, and lost five teeth, which have not been replaced yet. His diet is mostly liquids, though he is allowed a few soft foods.
Five days after the shooting, Garrett was back at the Woody Hayes Center preparing himself mentally for the season though physical activity was still off limits.
“Post-surgery, I couldn’t do anything physically but I could do stuff mentally and just sit there and talk with Coach J (defensive line coach Larry Johnson) and go over game plans and just be as prepared as possible,” Garrett said .
“When I had found out that I had really no major damage to my mouth or face, I knew in that moment that it was time to just get back to working, refocus myself and just be ready for any opportunity I have to get back to play.”
He said getting back on the practice field and then on the field in a game was emotional for him.
“I was very happy the second I got cleared, just the fact that I knew they wanted me to be out there and I’m a leader in the unit and that the guys are leaning on me as much as I lean on them,” Garrett said. “It was just really emotional, and it was really a very blessed opportunity to go out there and be with them.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, “I’m not surprised because I know what Haskell’s capable of. But I am really impressed with the way he played. While I wasn’t surprised at his ability on the field, it was pretty impressive to see that quick turnaround. And if he can continue that, he can have a major impact on our defense.”