Two Sides To Brandon Garner
Garner's Jovial Off-Field Attitude Shifts To Sharp Focus When It's Time To Work
DENTON - If you've encountered Brandon Garner on the practice field, you've seen a smiling face. A redshirt junior linebacker enjoying life as a collegiate football player. A leader within the North Texas defense. A happy-go-lucky attitude that offers a slight relief from workouts in the Texas heat and the no nonsense coaching of defensive coordinator Troy Reffett.
"I'm always smiling," Garner said. "I'm always a happy person."
If, however, you've encountered Brandon Garner on the playing field, you've experienced an explosive playmaker. A dynamic athlete whose talent is both physical and mental.
That Brandon Garner has 68 tackles (47 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries through his first two seasons at North Texas. However, it's not his statistics that bring him such joy.
"We're out here playing football," Garner said, "so it doesn't get any better than that."
But it's not all fun and games for Garner on the gridiron. While he feels he got bigger and stronger during the summer, courtesy of strength and conditioning coach Zack Womack, Garner's goals are less physical and more mental.
"I'm trying to be more focused," Garner said. "I'm trying to lock in more."
Those objectives are greatly attributed to the one-on-one work between Garner and linebackers coach, Jeff Koonz, to enhance Garner's football IQ.
"If you want to be a pro, you have to practice like a pro," Koonz told Garner in one of the meetings.
Those wise words stuck with Garner, who last year also sought the help of then-senior linebacker Fred Scott on the same topic.
"I think I saw a big jump from those two helping me out," Garner said. "I'm learning every position on the field, so I not only know what I have to do, but I know what everyone else has to do and where they're supposed to be."
While Garner has his own missions for the season, they pale in comparison to the team mission to win a Conference USA Championship and a bowl game.
"My personal goal is to get 100-plus tackles, or maybe get a postseason award for something," Garner said, "but really I just want that conference championship and bowl victory. That's most important to me."
Achieving that mission would require a slight turnaround from last season, which culminated with a 5-8 record after a loss to Army in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl. However, Garner is no stranger to a quick turnaround.
As a junior at Mansfield Timberview High School, Garner was a member of a 3-7 team that allowed 26.7 points per game.
In his final season, he helped the Wolves to an 8-4 campaign, reaching the area round of the UIL state playoffs. Garner and the defense held opponents to 18.2 points per game against the likes of Desoto, Cedar Hill and Euless Trinity, who have combined for seven state titles since 2005.
"I feel like we really want to make the change," Garner said in response to what similarities he sees between his senior year squad at Timberview and this year's North Texas team. "We're not just saying it, we're starting to believe in it. We want to change North Texas. We want to change Denton."
This yearning to change is what #NewDenton is all about, and Garner absolutely buys into the hashtag.
"#NewDenton is just like, `Hey, we're throwing that all away and getting new,'" Garner said. "We care. We take this to heart. We're not practicing and working hard just to go 6-6."