Myles Garrett took a microphone and stepped in front of a crowd of smiling kids sitting on the turf field at Gilmour Academy. All of them were tuned into what the three-time Pro Bowler was going to say next.
The kids, who ranged in ages from first grade through eighth grade, were all taking part in Garrett's first youth football camp, a two-day experience that lasted Saturday and Sunday and featured special on-field instruction from Garrett himself.
"I want you to make the most of this opportunity — because I know I will," Garrett said to the kids. "It's great to be out here with you kids. I know I didn't have the ability to do this when I was young. I want you all to do the best you can and maximize your opportunity and potential for these next two days."
Garrett jogged from drill to drill to throw footballs and interact with the kids throughout the camp, the first he's hosted since the Browns drafted him first overall in 2017.
He's become one of the best defenders in the game since he arrived in Cleveland and is now only four sacks away from passing Clay Matthews as the Browns' all-time sack leader. The success has given Garrett, the Browns' 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year, a tremendous platform in the community, and he's embraced it through several charitable causes — he completed a “Tackle Thirst” campaign in 2021 to provide money for NFL Waterboys, and he's also been a leading advocate on the Browns for social justice efforts, among many other efforts.
But he hasn't yet held a camp in Cleveland to help grow the game and inspire a new generation to continue playing football. That box was checked last weekend in Gates Mills.
"I have so many years left for this, both for this team and this community," he said. "We're just starting to get these things rolling. I'm going into Year 6, and I'm hoping to do this for a much longer time — even another six years."
Garrett, a native of Arlington, Texas, grew up a Cowboys fan but never had an opportunity to participate in a football camp with one of his favorite players. Now that he's managed to reach the superstar status of the players he looked up to but never met, he wanted to give that chance back to kids who have already been inspired by what he's achieved in Cleveland.
"I think it's a big deal to be out here with these kids, try to shape what they want to do, see if they really want to do it," Garrett said, "and if they do, have fun with your friends and other kids in the community."
That's the biggest lesson Garrett wanted attendees to learn.
Given by the smiles and looks of awe by the kids as Garrett made his way around the field, his goal was successful.
"Have fun — that's what it's all about," he said. "You want to have love for the game. You'll never give as much as you can if you don't love it, if you don't truly feel like you're a part of it and this is something you want to do for the rest of your life. That's how I feel about football … and I wanted them to be able to get out here and just appreciate the game."