NOTE: This is the eighth part of a series published exclusively in the Jackson Parish Journal that celebrates the achievements of the six athletes and three Special Award winners that represent the Class of 2021 that will be inducted into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame (JPSHOF) on August 7th. This week: Bob Garrett
One portion of the gala event that will take place this coming Saturday evening will have a unique, albeit, well deserved twist of irony to it. That is when the former JHHS quarterback of golden locks and with a golden arm, the one who earned the nickname of “Bullet Bob,” will for the first time in his life be on the receiving end.
What the iconic signal caller, recognized as having the strongest arm of any to ever play quarterback at JHHS has reeled in, is a spot in the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021. It wasn’t the passes, that after a game his receivers would have to soak their hands to take the soreness out, that earned him the designation though but the accuracy the “bullets” were thrown with that led to mind popping statistics for the day.
In the early 1980’s, high school football was played primarily on the ground across the state, especially by the coaches in north Louisiana. The one exception was JHHS coach Lonnie Calahan who liked to air it out given the chance. Entering the 1982 season Calahan made the optimistic statement of “We lost a lot of players but we have a chance to be good as we have some excellent young players returning.”
The main one he was speaking about was the unknown, cannon-armed, junior quarterback who could throw the ball the length of the field with seemingly just a flick of his wrist. By the time Garrett completed his two years (1982-83, 1983-84), one of which got cut short due to injury, he was not only well known but recognized as one of the top QB prospects in the state. He had also rewritten the record book for most of the single season and career passing records at JHHS.
What is just as impressive is the competition that he did it against. As an example, in 1982 the Tigers pre-district slate featured six straight games against schools from a higher classification that were ranked in the top ten of the state.
After JH opened the year by blasting Class 3A Farmerville 33-0, the first inkling of Garrett’ talent came in his second start when he threw for two second half TD’s, to rally JH from a 13-0 deficit and beat Class 5A Ouachita. It was the Tigers first victory over the largest school from Monroe since 1962. Next up was Class 3A Mansfield who also took a two score lead before the Tigers came storming back behind another Garrett air raid. Then came the “murderer’s row” gauntlet of Neville, the top ranked Class 4A school, and Class 5A schools Carroll High of Monroe and Ruston, both who were highly ranked.
After navigating the gauntlet JHHS finally played a team from their own class. By games end against Many High, Garrett had set new records for yardage thrown (221), completions in a game (13) and tied the school mark for TD’s with three. By season’s end Garrett had completed 92 passes in 217 attempts for 1377 yards, all single season school records. The one for attempts still stands today.
After a summer where he had won numerous camp awards including Most Outstanding Camper at Ole Miss, Garrett began his senior year recognized as one of the top QB’s in the state. Scouts from major universities from all over were in the stands every game continually being awed by the strong armed field general’s ability.
The Tigers dropped the season opener against Class 5A power Ruston, then reeled off 7 straight wins and looked primed to compete for the Class 2A crown. Then disaster struck as after leading JH to a 28-0 halftime lead over Ringgold, Garrett suffered a broken leg ending his high school career. Even with only playing 21 games in his career he still finished with career school records for yardage (2244 yards), completions (155), most attempts (359) and most times for throwing three TD’s in a game. He also was second in career TD’s thrown.
Garrett also was a tremendous baseball player who earned All-District honors and was instrumental in leading JHHS to one of their deepest playoff runs in school history. His arm drew acclaim there as well, although as former teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member, Todd (Silas) Thomas, recalled not always for his stats.
“We were playing Winnfield and Bob was breezing through the lineup when he uncorked a fastball that was high and hit the umpire in the mask,” laughed Thomas. “It almost knocked the man out. He proceeded to call 12 straight pitches that looked like strikes a ball. It caused Coach Ted Reeves to pull him and the ump was smiling when he was walking off. That man didn’t want to see Bob anymore.”
Despite his injury, Garrett still signed with La Tech where he started as a freshman. In a contest against the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL), now known as the University of Louisiana (UL) Garrett pulled off a play that is still shown today on Tech highlight reels. On their own 2 yard line and with Garrett in the shotgun, the center sailed the ball over his head. Undaunted he gathered the ball in at the back of the end zone took two steps forward and let loose.
It was almost as if everything went in slow motion. The crowd “oohed and aahed” as ball sailed higher and higher through the air. It was finally cradled in by the Tech receiver around the opponent’s 10 yard line after traveling almost 90 yards in the air.
After his three year career at Tech, Garrett began a coaching career that lasted 29 years and included stops at Opelousas Catholic, Adams County Christian School (MS), Cedar Creek, Ruston High School and Ruston Jr. High before his retiring last year to enjoy time with his wife Karen and daughter Lillie.
It was a long career for the man who was known for throwing long passes and who left a legacy that will be remembered for a long time. It is well deserved that the “passer” will now get to enjoy being the “receiver” of this honor bestowed unto him.
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