Goodbye, Aggieland

Late in my high school career, a lot of different people tried to sway my college decision.

“Seriously, what else do you need in a university?”

But the single best recruiter I encountered during the process wasn’t a coach or an administrator.

“We have everything: the best competition, the best facilities and the best people.”

It was my big sister, Brea. One of my greatest mentors. She wanted me to choose Texas A&M.

“Myles, I’m telling you, the community is amazing,” she said. “They’re going to take care of you here. At the same time, it’s close enough to home that you can visit anytime you want. And I love my classes — the education is great.”

Brea is two years older than me and was on the Aggies’ track team. For the most part, she let me navigate the recruiting process on my own. But one day, when I was getting closer to making a decision, I was talking to her on the phone when she went into into a full-blown pitch. What made it memorable was that she wasn’t really recruiting me so much as just telling me how it was.

The Garrett Family

“Seriously, what else do you need in a school?”

As I sat in my family’s kitchen, considering her words, I made up my mind that I was going to become an Aggie.

Now, three years later, I can say with absolute certainty that she was right — about everything.

There’s a popular saying used to describe life in College Station that goes, “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”

It’s true. The most difficult part of telling another person what it means to be an Aggie is figuring out where to start.

You see, at Texas A&M, just about everything is rooted in tradition. From the yells, to the corps of cadets, to “the Wrecking Crew,” so many things here offer at least some nod to the past. And they’re all significant to so many different people.

My personal favorite is the Aggie Spirit Walk. Before every home game, the football team gets off the bus and walks behind the corps and the band toward the locker room. The band would be pacing us, playing the best fight song in all of sports, while the yell leaders in front of us fired up the crowd. It would still be hours before kickoff, but the streets would always be lined with fans, giving us the thumbs-up and yelling “WHOOP!” as we made our way to the stadium. It was an amazing scene, and it gives me chills just thinking about it.

I still remember my first spirit walk, when I thought it was so cool because of the sheer number of people who had come out to give us encouragement. But as my career progressed, I began to appreciate the spirit walk on a different level. It wasn’t just that there were so many fans who were willing to come out and cheer for us — it was that usually it was the same fans there game after game, season after season.

Over the years, as I did the walk, I began recognizing more and more familiar faces. Instead of waving and giving high fives, we started exchanging hugs. Little kids would sneak under the rope so that they could give me a thumbs-up and pose for pictures. It really hit me that I wasn’t just part of the football team. I was part of something much, much bigger.

What I learned over the past few years was that it wasn’t the campus, the top-notch facilities or even the rich tradition that made attending Texas A&M truly special — not at all, actually. What makes being an Aggie so meaningful isn’t something that can be seen or touched. It’s deeper than that.

Attending Texas A&M was one of the best decisions I ever made because it introduced me to a community of good people who I know are going to look out for me forever — and I’m going to do the exact same for them.

To me, that’s what Aggie Spirit is all about.

Also, noise.

Lots and lots of noise.

To call the sound of the 12th Man deafening doesn’t really do it justice.

There were so many times — after a particularly big play or during an important drive — when the yell leaders really got the crowd going and I could actually feel my facemask shake because of all of the noise.

Contrary to what some might believe, Texas A&M isn’t just a football school. There are just too many sources of pride for us Aggies. I think what the football team really represents at the school is a sort of focal point that provides a diverse group of people the chance to come together and scream their lungs out as one united community.

Of course, that sense of pride isn’t just reserved for Saturdays at Kyle Field. I’ll never forget sitting at dinner with some family members in College Station when a story about me came on the TV above the bar. Naturally, you see yourself on TV and you’re going to start watching it, but as I was staring at the screen, I noticed everyone around me — not just the other patrons, but also the waiters and the managers at the restaurant — doing double-takes, looking back and forth from the TV to me. Suddenly, I was surrounded. It seemed like everybody in the restaurant came up to me to say hello or ask to get a picture with me. And they all did so in typically apologetic and polite East Texas fashion.

Oh, Mr. Garrett, I’m so sorry. I really hate to be rude, and I know I shouldn’t ask, but….

Funny thing is, that type of stuff didn’t happen just in Texas. The past three years I’ve been lucky to travel to a lot of places I’ve never been to before. But no matter where I was, I always encountered other Aggies. That never failed to amaze me. It also felt good to know that, wherever I was, I wasn’t far from home.

As I say goodbye to Aggieland, I can’t help but think of all of the things I’m going to miss.

I’ll miss the guidance of Coach Sumlin, whose door was always open if I ever needed him. I’ll never forget the time that — during a game in high school against South Grand Prairie — I almost missed a play because I had been staring up at his helicopter, which was hovering above the field. That left an impression on me, to be sure. Texas A&M is a huge ship, and Coach Sumlin was constantly working to steer it in the right direction.

I’m also going to miss Coach Chavis, who showed so much passion for his craft. What impressed me most about him was that he took such an interest in turning all of his players into well-rounded men. He preached the importance of being a leader, not just in the huddle, but also in your household. He taught us the importance of trusting — and earning the trust of — your teammates. He showed us the importance of winning, but also made us understand that you might lose a game, but that didn’t mean that you should ever lose your class or your dignity. Coach Chavis asked all of us to take on challenges bigger than football. Trying to live up to his standards was one of the greatest tests I faced during my time in College Station, and I really hope to make him proud as I take this next step in my football career.

And of course, I’m really going to miss Daeshon Hall, my brother. I feel like we’ve grown up together these past few years.

When I first arrived on campus, I looked at Daeshon as my rival. I knew that I had to earn my spot and prove myself, and that he was at the top of the food chain. It’s fair to say we were measuring each other up. He’d take a rep and look spectacular, then I’d do everything I could to outperform him.

When we were in pads, it was all about competition. But as soon as practice was over, we’d look at each other and smile and then decide whether we wanted to go grab food or play video games. It was all love.

I’ll always remember playing against Nevada my freshman year, when Daeshon and I realized what we could become. We spent that whole game setting each other up for hits on the quarterback. It was like we were two alley cats and he was a mouse. I remember coming off the edge and making eye contact with the quarterback, then watching him dart the other way right into DaDa’s shoulder. The next play, he would set me up the same way — and we only got better from there. I don’t think I’d be the player I am today if he hadn’t taken such an interest in helping me maximize my talents. He’s someone I’ll stay close to forever.

The past three years have been full of so many memorable experiences — most good and some difficult. But ultimately I’m thankful for all of them because through it all I’ve grown so much as a person. I’ve encountered adversity, whether it was with a difficult injury or a difficult midterm, and have had to learn how to face things head on. I think the experience will serve me well.

I’m thankful to my teammates and coaches, but I’m also thankful to the opponents I lined up across from these past few years. It’s been a pleasure to battle against some of the best players in the country every single week. I know from firsthand experience that the NFL is going to be getting a really good crop of rookies next season.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something else I’ll miss deeply: Fuego, the finest taco dispensary on the planet. Those tacos were always there for me when I needed them most. Wherever I end up next, I will do whatever I can to make sure that Fuego opens a franchise in that city. This is something that is very important to me.

To every Aggie out there: Thank you for making this journey everything I could have ever dreamed of.

This experience was absolutely everything my big sister promised, and so much more.

Aggies worldwide have shown me such a remarkable amount of love. You all put up with so many injuries, and you also tolerated the poetry and dinosaur talk. Through everything, you made me feel so proud to be an Aggie. It’s something I’ll never take for granted.

I love the 12th Man and always will.

Thanks, and Gig ’em,