Garretts Recall Lessons Gained From Tiger Football As They Returned to Princeton for Football Clinic
By Bill Alden
It was like old times for two Princeton University football greats, Jason and Judd Garrett.
The two brothers were in the bowels of Princeton¹s football stadium two Saturdays ago, engrossed in a chalk talk as they prepared to hit the field.
Yet this day, the two Garretts, who won the Asa S. Bushnell Cup, emblematic of the Ivy League's top player, in back-to-back seasons in the 1980s (1988 for Jason and 1989 for Judd), were not heading out to the field to face one of their Ivy rivals.
Instead, the brothers were in town to help run a one-day football clinic on campus in conjunction with the National Football Foundation's Play It Smart program and Jason Garrett's Starfish Charities.
The Play It Smart program is designed to enhance the lives of inner city football players and the event at Princeton drew more than 200 kids from such schools as Shabazz in Newark, Asbury Park High, and New York City's Lincoln High.
In between putting the youngsters through drills on the Princeton football practice fields, the Garrett brothers couldn't help but reflect on their glory days in orange and black.
"It was a great time," said Jason Garrett, a prolific quarterback who gained 4,555 yards in total offense, the second highest total in the storied history of the Princeton program.
"Football was such a big part of it but other things were also a big part of it. It was such a unique experience to meet the people I did. Some of my best buddies in life come from my time at Princeton."
The deep family ties made Garrett's time at Princeton all the more special. "It's a big part of our lives,² said Garrett, a 12-year NFL veteran whose wife, Brill, is also a Princeton alum and another brother, John, who also played football for the Tigers. "We've been so fortunate to be a part of it, it will be a part of our lives forever."
As younger brother Judd Garrett surveyed the practice fields, he was struck by some of the differences on campus.
"The first thing I noticed is that everything had changed," joked the curly-haired Garrett, who is second all-time in career rushing at Princeton with 3,109 yards.
"When I was here, those bushes circling the baseball field were little shrubs. It was a long time ago."
The passage of time, however, has sharpened the younger Garrett's appreciation of his Princeton career. "It was just a great experience," said Garrett, who is currently an assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.
"I probably didn't appreciate how great an experience it was while I was doing it. You don¹t really think about it as you¹re going through it."
For both of the Garretts, their time at Princeton left them with lessons that transcended football. "You learn things academically," said Jason Garrett. "You learn things about life, you learn proper perspective. You¹re challenged. That¹s what life is, learning how to get things done."
Judd Garrett saw it much the same way. "The things you learned in class were important but what I take away from it in my job is time management," explained Garrett, whose wife Kathy is also a Princeton alum.
"Setting priorities on what needs to be done and what needs to go on the backburner; efficiency of thinking and all that. Those are the things that carry over in the rest of your life."
The Garretts will apply those lessons again in a few weeks as they head off to NFL training camps this month.
Judd Garrett sees his world as containing the same kind of challenges he faced in his pro playing career which saw him star in the World Football League and the Canadian Football League.
"It's a competitive thing, just like when I was a player,² said Judd Garrett, who coaches the receivers for the Dolphins and doubles as the quality control coach handling film breakdown.
"There are a lot of guys who want to do it. It¹s my eighth year doing it and I¹m trying to hang in it as long as I can. The biggest thing I enjoy about it is working with the players, being old and still being in football."
Jason Garrett, who has quarterbacked for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, is facing a new challenge as he looks to extend his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I¹ve been real fortunate to go down there and be around a coach like Jon Gruden," said the freckle-faced Garrett, who looks like a character out of Huck Finn.
"He's a great coach, I think they are doing some great things in that organization. It's great to get a chance to continue my career in that environment. My approach has always been to get myself ready to play, first and foremost."
With the lessons learned in their time at Princeton, the Garretts appear ready for more success in their football careers.