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02-18-12: Puyallup High senior competes in all-star game
02-18-12: Puyallup High senior competes in all-star game

As one of the nation’s top high school football players, Puyallup High senior Josh Garnett competed on the gridiron last month in a nationally-televised bowl game that he describes as the experience of a lifetime.

The 6’5” 305-pound offensive lineman played left guard in the fifth annual Under Armour All-America High School Football Game.

ESPN televised the all-star competition, spotlighting 92 of the country’s nationally ranked high school football seniors, live on January 5 from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The annual bowl game, presented by American Family Insurance, is a chance for students to showcase their talents to college football coaches, as well as football fans across the country. Players are selected by ESPN Scouts, Inc.

“It was such a great experience playing with all of these great guys you see or hear about on TV,” Garnett said. “They all come from different cultures and backgrounds, and we bonded as a team.”

Garnett played most of the first quarter and some of the remaining three quarters on Team Blur, which wore white jerseys. Team Blur had a decisive 49-16 victory over Team Highlight in black.

“I did a lot better than I thought I would do,” Garnett said. “I held my own.”

When asked about moments that stood out for him in the game, he laughed and described one play in which he stopped Texas senior Malcolm Brown, who is rated the second best defensive tackle in the country.

“I pancaked him flat, and it felt pretty good,” Garnett said.

The Puyallup Viking also stopped Washington D.C. senior Eddie Goldman, ranked the second best player overall in the nation, from rushing on a critical pass play.
The significance of being in a bowl game hit home, Garnett said, during the pre-game speech by his team coach: former National Football League (NFL) head coach Herm Edwards.

Edwards is an NFL analyst for ESPN and served as head coach of the New York Jets (2001-05) and Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08). In his 10-year playing career, Edwards spent nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, highlighted by an appearance in Super Bowl XV.

“Our coach said our name, handed us our jersey, and gave the pre-game speech,” said Garnett, a 17-year-old who has been playing football since he was in third grade. “Then he looked at us and said, ‘it’s game time.’ I kept thinking ‘wow, this is Herm Edwards coaching us.’”

Another highlight, Garnett said, happened before he ever stepped onto the football field.

Several days before the game, Garnett and his peers helped lay sod for a new football field at a local Florida middle school.

“This was the best experience,” Garnett said, “because we could give back to that community and the kids.”

The players spent the days before the game practicing at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Disney. Garnett arrived in Florida with his family early enough to also visit some tourist attractions, including Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

Stanford bound

After fielding months of questions about where he will attend college, Garnett announced his choice on January 26 at Puyallup High School with his family, friends, coaches, teammates, and local media on hand.

Garnett will attend Stanford University in California to play football and study medicine.

The Puyallup Viking, who has a 3.8 high school grade point average, plans to major in biochemistry or human biology and aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.

The high school was the same place that Garnett received his honorary jersey for the Under Armour All-American Game several months earlier.

Dan Kosage, owner of Dan Kosage Agency of American Family Insurance in Puyallup, handed Garnett the game jersey and told the audience, “This is a special honor for Josh and his parents. American Family Insurance is proud to support you and your future.”

Garnett celebrated both the jersey presentation, and his college pick last month, with his coaches, his teammates, school district officials, and his family — mother, Shanda, father, Scott, and twin-sister, Rachel — at his side.

His father, who Garnett refers to as “my mentor and coach,” played as a defensive tackle in the NFL from 1984-1987. He was drafted in 1984 by the Denver Broncos and also played with the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and Buffalo Bills.

His son wore #67 — the same number that his father wore when he played high school football — on his Puyallup High football jersey during his senior year. He was #78, the same number he wore in the Florida bowl game, during his sophomore and junior years.

Puyallup High Principal Jason Smith said at the jersey presentation, “More important than his physical attributes is the kind of person he is. Josh is a leader who is kind, who is generous, and the kind of kid you would want your son to be like. It’s really neat to have such a quality young man be the face of your program. We are really proud of him.”

Garnett attended Shaw Road Elementary and Kalles Junior High before coming to Puyallup High three years ago.

He said he would eventually like to play in the NFL, “if I have the God-given talent to do so.”