Jacob Garrett has not only provided solid blocking for SIU this season, he’s also been a dependable and productive receiver out of the backfield. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)
By Dan Verdun
Before Southern Illinois football games, you’ll most likely find Jacob Garrett buried in his thoughts while listening to heavy metal hits.
But come game time, you should notice No. 43 providing key blocks on running plays or staying in on pass protection. You’ll certainly notice him when he slips out of the backfield to catch passes, including a pair of touchdowns in the Salukis’ win at Northwestern last month.
Head coach Nick Hill called Garrett the “glue” to his team.
“We have several captains, but that’s who you want leading your team. He does everything right,” Hill said of Garrett. “He’s graduated, he’s a phenomenal student. The leadership he’s shown from Week 1 to right now, as a coach, you’re proud to have him on your team.”
Get to know Jacob Garrett, SIU fullback, in our Prairie State Pigskin Moving the Chains Q&A.
When you think about the win over Northwestern, where does that rank in victories during your time as a Saluki?
Probably for pure personal reasons it’s likely my No. 1 game. It was against a Big Ten school, the second win against that conference in school history. And I had a major role in that win. It’s probably going down as one of my favorite games in my career.
In terms of the team, that (2020 playoff) win at Weber State was huge. That North Dakota State game in the spring (of 2020) where we beat them 38-14 to break that (39-game) winning streak that they had. That was a huge game to be a part of.
How ironic is it to you that your head coach, Nick Hill, quarterbacked SIU’s first win over a Big Ten team back in 2006 against Indiana, which is your home state?
It’s pretty crazy, that’s for sure. It’s funny because he was talking about that game in particular. He said they were down in that game and ended up winning. It’s funny how it all worked out that way.
Walk us through the two touchdowns you had against Northwestern.
I think I’m pretty widely viewed as a blocker for the guys in the backfield and out on the perimeter. We got down in the red zone after a good drive. We put together a nice schemed-up play where I could bluff the linebacker and go up the seam for the (first) touchdown. It all added up perfectly, so that one was beautiful.
The other one came after our defense forced a turnover down in the red zone. The play we used we had only walked through twice if I remember right. But, it worked; it popped up perfectly for us. (Tight end) Tyce Daniel and I were both out (in pass patterns). It could have gone to either one of us, it just worked out that it was to me.
Do you get a bigger rush out of delivering a devastating block that frees up a key play or do you prefer to haul in those passes for touchdowns?
That’s tough to say, touchdowns are always nice, especially in an atmosphere like we had at Northwestern. But there’s a whole other different kind of feeling when you can impose your will on another man in the game to the point where he doesn’t want to go anymore.
It’s two different feelings really. I definitely enjoy getting those devastating blocks. I get way more of those than I do touchdowns, so I probably cherish those touchdowns a little bit more.
How does your game day routine change depending on whether it’s an afternoon kickoff or a night kickoff?
If it’s a 2 p.m. kickoff, we’re up early and going. We’re at it from the beginning of the morning. At Northwestern, it was an 11 a.m. kickoff, so we were up at 7 with meetings.
It gets hairy when you have those 6 p.m. and later kicks. In those cases, I like to hang out watching film of the opponent we’re about to play or throw on some of those early TV games and relax. I might get in a little stretching with Meade (Smith, SIU’s strength coach). I keep hydrating. I almost want to keep my mind off of it because you don’t want your brain and your body going too early and run out of juice late in the game. I really try to wait until kickoff to really gear it up.
Is there anything that you always do as part of your pregame routine?
I always go through the same routine with stretching. I don’t like to go out on the field and run a bunch of routes pregame before anyone is in the stadium. I don’t like to do that. I like to walk the field, get a couple of stretches in with Meade. I’m a big Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica fan. I always listen to their top hits.
I really just try to stay mentally focused and go through play calls and play sheets and the scouting report. That’s how I get dialed in.
Thinking about the roommates you’ve had at SIU, who would say in the neatest?
As in the cleanest? Well, I lived with (quarterback) Nic (Baker) for two years. He lives with Stone Norton, another quarterback, now. I live with (guard) Chase Evans and (tackle) Jake Green.
As far as the cleanest, you’d have to go digging on that one. His name was Jacob Traxler. He’s a local kid from Eldorado. He was my dorm roommate my freshman year. That kid was a freak about everything. I’m not going to say I’m dirty, but he made me feel dirty. It looked like two halves of a different room. He’s definitely the cleanest guy. Nic Baker wouldn’t make it on that list (chuckles).
So, who’s the biggest slob?
I won’t throw Baker under the bus like that, and I don’t really think it’s him. One of our other roomates who didn’t stay the whole time at SIU was Jaden Roberts-Thomas. He came in our class of 2018, and he was a pretty big one for being messy.
Who’s the best cook?
I wouldn’t go with me. I would give myself a little tip of the hat on the grill. In the kitchen, it’s probably Levi Mitchell. He was a tight end for us in that spring season. He could cook up some good food. He and his girlfriend Tara made some great meals. They’re married now and live in North Carolina.
Taking SIU out of the equation, what school in the Missouri Valley Football Conference has the best uniforms?
Illinois State has Nike, I believe, so I’d probably put them up there. I do like the (ISU) all red; those are nice. I think we have the best all-white combination.
South Dakota State has got some good combinations. I’m not a big fan of the blue and yellow, but I like their blue-helmet, blue-jersey, white-pants look. Those are pretty clean.
So, I’d probably go with the (Illinois State) all red and the (South Dakota State) blue tops and white bottoms.
Again, taking Southern out of the equation, who in the Missouri Valley do you think could be the next great NFL player?
We’re talking (former SIU star now Carolina Panther safety) Jeremy Chinn level? That’s tough to say because Chinn is a special talent.
Just looking at it in terms of the guys coming out right now (as seniors), I think Tucker Craft of South Dakota State has the potential to be a great NFL tight end. I know (Philadelphia Eagles tight end) Dallas Goedert went to South Dakota State, so they’ve got that history there.
(Offensive lineman) Cody Mauch at North Dakota State is a pretty freak athlete for his position. I know (former NDSU player) Cordell Volson is playing for the Cincinnati Bengals right now, so he could follow in those footsteps.
I like to think I’m the best fullback in the country and only one of the other guys that could compete or do more than me is Hunter Luepke (of North Dakota State). I’d like to see a guy like that, who I’m competing with for first team all-conference, be a draft pick. I’m never rooting for him when we’re playing them, but he’s a great player.
Football aside, what’s something you really enjoy about fall?
I enjoy wearing a sweatshirt and shorts and being able to go out on a walk and not come back sweating. I’ve got a 9-month-old puppy and taking her on walks after practice can get kind of annoying when I’ve just showered after dinner. That’s one of the things I enjoy most, just being able to go outside and feel comfortable and not be sweating when I get back to my apartment.
With Halloween coming up, what’s a go-to candy for you?
My favorite candy bar is a Twix, but in terms of trick-or-treating, I always love a good Tootsie roll. I don’t know what it is about it, but as a kid when you’d trade candy among your friends, I always wanted the Tootsie rolls.
What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
I had some creative ones growing up. My mom likes to do a lot of DYI crafts. There was one that she made where I was a real-life zombie in which she did the makeup and everything. I looked like I was on the set of The Walking Dead. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time, and this was before that show was even out. That was probably my favorite one.