COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Haskell Garrett’s happy place has always been the football field. But heading into the 2020 season, the Ohio State defensive tackle wasn’t sure he would see the field. First, the Big 10 canceled the season due to COVID-19. Then, at the end of August, Haskell suffered a gunshot wound to the face while trying to break up an argument.
“Not every day is promised,” Haskell said. “Why not invest in the future?”
Haskell needed a purpose with the prospect of not having a season and he found it in an unexpected place — a grandmother working at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
“She said, ‘You know if you’re not doing anything, my grandson is playing football,’” Haskell said. “One thing led to another and when I went out there and watched them play football during the pandemic. It was you know somewhat a sense of happiness.”
Haskell started working with the Central Ohio Community Buckeyes and shared his personal mantra BAO: Beat All Odds.
“Everybody has some odds they have to beat whether they’re kids, adults, kids from unfortunate backgrounds, kids from fortunate backgrounds, something that we deal with on a daily basis,” Haskell said. “I didn’t grow up with a fortunate background. I’ve been on both sides of the track and I’ve also been at prestigious high schools like Bishop Gorman and seeing how kids had to Beat All Odds. It’s something you have to deal with on a daily basis . . . It’s been a pleasure to be able to pass it on to the next generation.”
Haskell teaches the young football players technique, positioning and other gridiron details but he says the most important thing is the conversations more importantly he has with the kids when they aren’t playing.
“There’s a lot of negativity going around in society right now and I just want to give these kids a sense of perspective that it’s going to be OK. There is a light on the other side of the fence and basically just giving them hope,” he said. “Whatever struggles they’re going with, I just listen. Sometimes with kids, you just need to listen.”
And the kids aren’t the only ones listening. Many of Garrett’s OSU teammates have shown up to games or practices to help, and Haskell hopes this is a legacy he can leave within the football program.
“It reminds me of back when I was little playing ball,” said Ohio State linebacker K’Vaughan Pope from the sidelines watching a flag football game on Sunday morning while Haskell signed autographs. “Help kids learn football, show them the way. Sports is also another way.”
Linebacker coach Al Washington was also at Sunday’s game with his daughter, Audrey, and son, Michael.
“I think our guys are unique in how much they care for others and it’s great to see other guys joining in,” Washington said while holding Audrey with Michael by his side. “20, 30 years ago this was me. I’m from Columbus, grew up on the Hilltop, and so I just love it. I love the fact that Ohio State Buckeyes are giving back and trying to help the next generation and just try to help kids along through their transition. It means a lot to me just being a native of Columbus and it’s great to see our guys doing it and continuing it. Everybody gets it’s bigger than them. You know it’s about a team. It’s about impacting other people, so that’s something that you see out here today and it’s pretty awesome.”
Garrett isn’t from Ohio and his only connection to Columbus is that he’s a student-athlete at Ohio State. But he said he has learned being a Buckeye football player comes with power to make a difference both on and off campus.
“I see this going as something that I continue when I’m outside of college and when I finally graduate, leave and take the next step. I just want to be an inspiration for other athletes around the country,” he said. “You’re a pillar of your city whether city or town, whether you’re in a small town or a big city. The colleges are always going to be the center of attention, so why not use the platform to inspire kids?” Haskell said simply. “So, whether I’m just there supporting or there giving some sense of advice, it doesn’t matter. It’s just the right thing to do and something I’m very passionate about.”
Garrett wants to expand his reach to other youth teams in the Columbus area. You can reach him via direct message on Instagram under the handle @BAOthefoundation.