CHARLOTTE - There was that one time, when the boy was 3 or 4 years old, that Garret McGuire's dad saw him riding around their Texas yard on a stick horse and thought he might grow up to be a rodeo cowboy.
It wasn't long after that day the father realized he was wrong, and there was only one likely future job for his son.
It's a cliché that gets thrown around a lot in the business, but this time it truly appears that Garret McGuire was born to coach — and not that long ago either.
The 21-year-old is the youngest addition to the Panthers' staff this offseason, earning the entry-level job as a coaching assistant after spending three years with head coach Matt Rhule at Baylor.
But this kind of job was years in the making, as McGuire was well on the path to coaching long before, well, long before he turned 10.
Between grins and polite "yes sirs," McGuire said he probably realized he was destined to be a football coach when he was about 7 or 8. The formative experience was also family bonding, with his father, the Texas high school football coach.
"After Friday nights, he and I would get a blow-up mattress and would spend the night in his office, grading the film, breaking down the next team," Garret said. "I just kind of fell in love with the process."
(It's also likely that when a 7-year-old son-of-a-coach started living the "process" lifestyle, Rhule reflexively broke into a grin and didn't know why. These two are kind of made for each other.)
"Probably ever since I was in second grade, I wanted to be a coach," McGuire said, continuing the explanation. "I just love being around the game, love the camaraderie of a staff, the camaraderie of a locker room. And just in general, the people around this age. young men, you get a chance to impact them.
"I know just how big of an impact that coaches have had on me, particularly a lot of these coaches. So it's just important that I can do the same."
It's easier when your dad's a rising star in the coaching business, as Joey McGuire was. That's not the same as it being easy. And it appears that Garret McGuire has never taken the path of least resistance.
Lest you think he got preferential treatment, the younger McGuire was the backup quarterback at Cedar Hill High School, a suburban Dallas powerhouse. (Of course, it wasn't always a powerhouse, as Cedar Hill hadn't won a playoff game until Joey McGuire took the job in 2003, but they'd go on to win three state championships in his 14 years there, with a 141-42 record and 12 straight playoff appearances.)
But when Garret got his chance to get into a game, he showed an instinct for play-calling and leadership.
On Sept. 2, 2016, against Mansfield, the Longhorns were down 21 in the fourth quarter, and starting quarterback Avery Davis (who went onto play at Notre Dame) was out with an injury. But McGuire led them back, and with 10 seconds left and no timeouts, he checked to a play not every quarterback would. Instead of throwing for the end zone, he audibled to a handoff to running back Marquise Forman, who scored a game-tying touchdown. The extra point gave them a dramatic comeback win, and the younger McGuire a sense of purpose.
"As a player, for sure, that game changed my life, just from an aspect of confidence, knowing I could go in there and get it done for my family, and by family, I mean my team," he said. "That game for sure, the confidence it gave me, you could tell. I started holding my chest out a little more, felt a lot better about myself."
He still wasn't a starter (most of his high school career was spent as a long snapper, a part-time receiver, and a backup), but his dad pointed out that in three and a half games of relief, his son threw for over 1,000 yards.
And when dad took a job on Rhule's staff at Baylor in 2017 (he's now Dave Aranda's associate head coach), the son followed along as a walk-on.