By Kevin Manning
For 18 years Joshua Garnett spent his life in the city of Puyallup.
From playing youth football leagues to graduating from Puyallup High School, Garnett has always carried a piece of his home with him. His home has become a core part of who he is.
"It's taking an ownership of where I came from and what I was able to do, " Garnett said via phone last week. "It's places like Competitive Edge (on South Hill) growing up. Working out with Puyallup (High) or playing on the GK (Graham-Kapowsin) Eagles little league football team. I mean, it's just things like that that have built my foundation of where I was able to go to."
Garnett grew up with a work ethic driven from his father, Scott, a former NFL lineman (1984-1987) who spent time with Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills.
Born February 24, 1994 in Auburn, Garnett has always been determined to be there for others. And Garnett's hometown of Puyallup has always stuck with the big man. From Shaw Road Elementary to Kalles Junior High to Puyallup High, he's always wanted to bring the lessons from each stop with him.
"That's a big thing growing up, as I always wanted to be a (Puyallup) Viking, " Garnett said. "Once I had that opportunity to put that purple and gold on, I took it really seriously. That's what I try to preach to the guys when I go back, to take it seriously."
Here, during his time spent living in Puyallup, experiencing the community's outreach to him, set Garnett on his path of selflessness.
The guard got the call April 28 he's been waiting for his entire life, ever since playing youth football in the city of Puyallup. On the other line was San Francisco, which traded up with Kansas City to select Garnett with the 28th pick.
"I want to come in and compete," Garnett said of his early NFL goals. "I want to come in, I want to play and I want to compete for that starting spot from day one."
Garnett will graduate from Stanford University this spring with a degree in human biology, where he hopes to use a stepping stone to join a medical school after his NFL career is over. All the awards, all the accomplishments Garnett has accumulated started here, in the city of Puyallup. And every year with no real reason than the want and desire to help others, Garnett comes home. It's not surprising for those who know him most, those who have been there since he was young growing up as the biggest kid on the field, bulldozing everyone in front of him.
When Garnett entered the Puyallup football program, coach Gary Jeffers already had an idea of who he was getting. He was rated a 4-star prospect, according to Scout.com, and was listed as the nation's No. 42 prospect in 2011 as well as the No. 3 offensive lineman in the country.
"We kind of knew we had a kid who people would be interested in," Jeffers said. "I don't think there was ever a moment I didn't think he wouldn't become the kid who he is."
A lot can go wrong when it comes to handling a player of Garnett's talent, Jeffers thought when he first heard about the young man he was getting. Years later, Jeffers would joke that he would give up all the 4-star or 5-star lineman in the world for a skill position player with half their talent. But not Garnett. Never had that thought crossed the Puyallup coach's mind when it came to the most talented player Jeffers has coached.
"He was always putting his time in the weight room (or) up at Competitive Edge, there is no question about his physical development," Jeffers said. "He's got a ton of talent, but he worked his butt off as well, for sure. (It's) the character of who he is at his core."