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August 25, 2011

Garrett has always thrived on doubt

Wearing a pale blue Dodgers cap, 80s-style slatted sunglasses and a rarely seen smile, David Garrett struts through the door of an Aggieville bar. He shows off a shoulder shrug and keeps his head on a swivel, as if awaiting direction. It's an early spring afternoon, and there's certainly no drinking to be done. Food isn't the calling either. Instead, the Kansas State senior is here to make a cameo in a local rapper's YouTube video.

The song's subject matter is the school Garrett represents on the football field, and the group producing the track includes Dahrnaz Tigner, a former teammate. As the music starts and a make-shift lightshow begins, the Wildcat defensive back tosses aside the football player persona, and lets loose. Just a college kid.

Lip syncing into a camera and shuffling his feet, he finds a way to call the room's attention to his 5-foot-8 frame. Now positioned in the center of a growing group of aspiring rappers, amateur background dancers and other students cloaked in purple shirts, his braids swing recklessly under flicking party lights. This is the rarely seen lighter side of David Garrett.

Catch him on the phone much later in the off season, and he's on a short trip home to Cleveland, Ohio. As soon as he answers, it's obvious the tone has changed. His current setting, while maybe just as hectic, is more intimate -- it also happens to be his favorite place on Earth.

"That's my daughter crawling around and trying to put everything in her mouth," he says, calmly attempting to explain the overwhelming background commotion. "When I'm back home, this is what I'm doing." Dylan Garrett was born smack in the middle of last football season, but her Oct. 3 birth date was nestled perfectly into the Wildcats' bye week.

"I got there right when Dylan was born," Garrett said. "I took a bunch of pictures of her, but I had to leave that next day. That was hard to do, but all the work I do in football and school is for her."

But while Garrett the dad comes off soft, and Garrett the college student remains undeniably laid back, Garrett the football player is neither. Instead, that side of the cornerback is at its best when fueled by rage.

Always has been.

Cornered in a bathroom by three opposing players during a banquet the night before a junior college bowl game, it took every drop of Garrett's strength to suppress his instincts. The smack talk flying in lobby had finally come to a head, but instead of doing what he was conditioned to do growing up in a rough area of Cleveland, the defensive back let the trio say its piece before quietly easing his way over the tile floor and out the door.

"David has never turned down a fight in his life except for that night," former Fort Scott Community college head coach Jeff Simms said. "And he didn't do it because he was scared of fighting three guys. He did it because he wanted to play football the next day. And if he started throwing punches, he knew he wouldn't be able to do that."

And play he did. Taking on a No. 1-ranked Blinn (Texas) College team as a heavy underdog, Garrett put it upon himself to lead Fort Scott to a 30-14 upset win by emphatically stating the point he declined to make with his fists less than 24 hours earlier.

"He was hitting guys like he was taking out every bad thing that ever happened to him in his life on them," Simms recalled. "He was in on everything. To this day, it's probably the greatest individual, single-game performance I've ever seen."

Physically, Garrett is less than imposing, but challenge him at your own risk. During what his community college coach describes as a "call-out drill" a larger offensive player chose the stocky defensive back as his opposition. What followed was something fit for a Wrestlemania undercard. He plowed his opposition out of the drill's coned-off area and past the sideline chalk before recklessly slamming him into the weeds adjacent to the field.

"I don't ever want to hear you say my name again," Garrett shouted, pointing down at the mangled pile of pads amassed on the ground in front of him. Some looked on in awe, but the practice field scene was one Simms foresaw.

"I have no idea why he called on David," he said. "I knew that was going to happen. You don't challenge David. He'll rip you apart when you do that."

In 2011, the anger is back. Already an established starter, Garrett led K-State in tackles, fumble recoveries and stops for a loss a year ago. He finished his junior year with the second-most sacks on the team and broke up nine passes. But while two other Wildcat defensive backs with far less impressive numbers were handed All-Big 12 honors following the season, Garrett, arguably the team's most important defensive player, was left without a single vote.

In this case, the word "snub" isn't so subjective.

"I've always been doubted," Garrett said. "For me to have the season I had and still not get recognized … at that point, I just started looking forward to next year."

Big 12 coaches who refused to give him a vote might as well have cornered him in a bathroom, as there's no reason to believe his reaction will be much different.

Does he still think about it? Every, single day. And as the season draws closer, the resulting familiar feeling only intensifies. At this point the cause and effect is no secret. Even the always calculated Bill Snyder is getting in on the act.

"He's probably better suited as a student manager," Snyder said of his top returning defensive back during a recent press conference, and while it drew laughs from reporters in attendance, Garrett probably met the line with a stone face when he stumbled across it in the papers.

Then again, maybe that was the point.

"I guess I'll just have to have a better season than I did last year," Garrett said. "I still need to improve just like everyone else, and being doubted just makes it easier."




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