BEREA, Ohio -- Bruce Smith, the National Football League’s all-time leader in sacks, served as a mentor to Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett in the lead-up to the 2017 NFL Draft, and on Wednesday, he paid the rookie and his teammates a visit at training camp in Berea.
After watching Garrett go through drills, Smith sees a player anxious to get better every day.
“I don’t believe that I was as receptive as a rookie as he is,” Smith said following Day 6 of Browns Training Camp. “This young man is mature beyond his years, and that’s a tribute to his humbleness and his upbringing by his parents.”
The Smith-Garrett relationship started because Garrett’s mother, Audrey, grew up in Hampton, Virginia, not too far away from Smith’s hometown of Norfolk.
Audrey Garrett got in contact with Smith through the NFL Players’ Association, and since then, the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end has been mentoring one of the best pass rushers to come out of college after the 2016 season.
“My message to Garrett is ‘Enjoy the process. Embrace it,’” Smith said. “I think that Hue (Jackson) just made a powerful statement. Leadership has no age, and that’s a true statement. You lead by example. You lead by making plays, and what you do on the field speaks so loudly that really, nobody hears what you’re saying. He’s off to a great start.”
In 34 games over his three years at Texas A&M, Garrett registered 141 total tackles, including 81 solo stops and 60 assists, with 31.0 quarterback sacks, seven forced fumbles, one recovery, five passes defended and one interception.
After having 11 and 11.5 sacks in each of his first two years at Texas A&M, Garrett registered 8.5 sacks during the 2016 season despite playing much of the year with a high ankle sprain.
In a career-low 10 games because of the lower-body injury, Garrett saw significant dips in productivity as it relates to tackles (33), solo stops (18) and assists (15), as well as forced fumbles (two) from the previous season, but still registered 15 tackles for lost yardage.
Despite all of Garrett’s past successes, Smith feels consistent competition against 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas will make the rookie pass rusher an even better player in the future.
“That’s what I mentioned to Gregg Williams and Hue, as well,” Smith said. “I said, ‘He needs this experience right now of going against the best that’s in the league, and Joe can be an invaluable asset to Myles.’
“To be able to communicate with him after a play is over, after a pass rush, he can teach him how to be a dominant player much quicker if he talks to him and communicates with him and tells him what he did wrong and what he did right, as opposed to him remaining silent.’ Him engaging and playing and getting as much action against Joe as he possibly can as a rookie is critical.”
© 2017 WKYC-TV