|AP Photos TXSAE501 and MOTG101-103|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 September 2007 18:07|
``Wiffle ball, Nerf basketball,'' Jason said, laughing.
``Little League baseball,'' added John. ``I was on the Royals and Jason and Judd were on the Falcons. Then we were all on the same team.''
After playing together for Princeton in 1987, the trio was done. While all three wound up following their dad into pro football, they pretty much went their separate ways, making it awfully hard to get all three in the same place at the same time.
Jason and John are coaching for the Dallas Cowboys and Judd is with the St. Louis Rams. When their teams meet Sunday at Texas Stadium, it will be their first game together since May 6, 1991, when Judd helped the London Monarchs beat Jason, John and the San Antonio Riders in a World League of American Football game.
``What's funny about it is that it's happened in our lives a lot, but when an outsider sees it they go, `Oh my God, that's unbelievable! Three brothers in football!''' John said. ``That's when it kind of hits me how special and unique it is. I don't want to lose this moment.''
The Garretts have been looking forward to this game since the NFL schedule was released in the spring. Their oldest brother, Jim - who recently gave up coaching after 20-plus seasons at their old high school - will be in the stands with a buddy who grew up playing ball with all the Garretts.
Their proud pop, meanwhile, will be watching from his sofa in Monmouth Beach, N.J.
``It's their day,'' said Jim Sr., who was in pro football nearly every year from 1954-2004, the last 17 years as a Cowboys scout. ``I think it'll be nice for them to have time for themselves.''
It would be even better if their hearts weren't so heavy these days.
Six weeks ago, Judd's wife Kathy died following a sudden, stunning illness. A former All-American soccer player at Princeton, the 38-year-old was the picture of good health and the mother of four kids between 4 and 14.
Kathy went for a night run, then began having breathing problems. Judd gave her CPR and called 911, but she died three days later, Jim Garrett Sr. said.
Jason's wife, Brill, was among the first to fly to St. Louis. She's been back twice. John's wife, Honor, has made two trips, and all four of the Garrett sisters have visited. Jane Garrett, the matriarch of the family, was headed there this weekend for a two-week stay.
``It's a hard deal for all of us,'' Jason said. ``Everybody has really tried to be supportive of Judd and his kids. He's done an amazing job handling it all.''
The Garrett boys have always been tight. Their closeness in age - John was born in March 1965, Jason in March 1966 and Judd in June 1967 - pretty much meant they'd be great friends or bitter rivals.
Football helped forge their bond. Jason was the quarterback, John the receiver and Judd the running back. That's how it was in the back yard and everywhere else.
They were all at Columbia in 1985, when their dad was the coach, but none of them played for a variety of reasons. They went to Princeton together in 1986, but were ineligible as transfers. They all played in '87, then John graduated.
Jason and Judd remain in '88, then Jason and John hooked up in 1991 in the WLAF. They were even cut on the same day. In 1993, Jason and Judd were both on the Cowboys; Dad was with the organization then, too.
In 2004, Jason spent part of his final NFL season in Miami, where Judd was the receivers coach. Jason joined the staff the following season, getting to work alongside Judd.
Then Scot Linehan, Miami's offensive coordinator, became the head coach in St. Louis and brought Judd with him to coach tight ends. Jason stayed in Miami another season, then became Dallas' offensive coordinator early this year.
He would've loved to hire Judd, but couldn't. So he turned to John, who was coaching at Virginia, to be tight ends coach.
``Having had that experience with Judd in Miami, I thought, `Boy, it would be nice to have John in Dallas,''' Jason said. ``From a football standpoint, we have a lot of the same beliefs. All that stuff helps. He's been a great resource for me.''
John likes working with Jason, even if his younger brother is technically his boss. He also likes the fringe benefit of their wives becoming closer.
``This is the first time we've lived in the same place,'' John said. ``It's been good for Honor and Brill to reconnect and just keep getting to know each other better.''
The only downside to this reunion weekend is that somebody has to lose.
See, in this family, they all root for each other. There's no sibling rivalry or trash-talking, not even the good-natured kind. The closest they might come is Jason withholding his usual ``good luck'' message on Judd's voice mail.
``We certainly had our wrestling matches and friendly competitions as kids,'' John said. ``But at the end of the day, there's a concern and a care and a love for each other.''
They'll put those feelings aside during Sunday's game.
But a few hours before, when they're standing on the turf laughing like old friends and kidding each other like old teammates, it's bound to hit them: Here they are, in their 40s, still playing ball together and against each other.
``It'll be great,'' Jason said. ``More than anything, it'll be fun.''