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October 18, 2011Collin Garrett was in his bed trying to get some extra rest before practice last Tuesday when his phone rang. When he saw that it was Turner Gill who was calling, his mind began to race.
"At first I thought, 'did I do something wrong?'" Garrett said.
Nope. Gill had called to ask the true freshman what he thought about burning his redshirt and making his college debut that Saturday against top ranked Oklahoma.
Garrett began to wonder about the possibility of playing during the previous day. Linebacker Huldon Tharp mentioned to him that his rib injury could cause him to miss some action.
Tharp told Garrett that he should get himself mentally ready to play.
When Gill called, Garrett was on board with the plan.
"Whatever you need me to do for the team," Garrett told Gill, "if that means burning my redshirt then I'll do it."
Once Garrett off the phone with Gill, he knew exactly what he had to do next: call mom.
"I told her, 'Mama I am going to be on ESPN' and she started screaming," Garrett said.
Later that day during practice, Garrett got a significant portion of snaps at weakside linebacker behind starter Steven Johnson. Garrett had taken snaps with the second and third teams during fall camp and the first few weeks of the season, but was told before the Texas Tech game that he was going to redshirt.
After that he was relegated to the scout team. Garrett had little trouble getting back into the flow of the defense.
"The only thing I had to adjust to was learning the plays they put in for that weekend," Garrett said. "On scout team I stayed on working on my technique with wrapping up and tackling well in case anything happened. It paid off."
It was important to Garrett that the game was nationally televised and his mom got to see his first game. His mother had about 50 different family members over to their house in Beaumont, Texas to watch the game.
Garrett said the sacrifices she had to make raising him as a single mother is what inspires him.
"My mom is the whole reason I am up here," Garrett said. "It's more for her than for me. I just want to make her proud and make it to the NFL to take care of her.
"She's been there all my life," he added.
Garrett said he got pep talks before the game from senior linebacker Steven Johnson and linebackers coach Vantz Singletary to relax and just perform like he has in practice.
Still, nothing could prepare him for going up against the top ranked Sooners offense and seeing their stars in person.
"I looked to my left and saw Broyles then to my right and saw Stills and I was like dang this is the real deal," Garrett said.
On the day, Garrett only had four total tackles, but defensive coordinator Vic Shealy was most impressed with Garrett's natural instinct for the game. There were several plays where Garrett was assigned a certain run fit, but improvised while the play was developing to make the tackle.
"There is nothing that coached him or prepared him to do that," Shealy said. "It was just a natural feel for the play and he has that. I think it speaks well for years ahead. I think he could be a top end KU Big 12 linebacker."