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Garret McGuire begins coaching journey with Panthers
The 21-year-old coaching assistant has been preparing 13 or 14 years for this.
By Darin Gantt Mar 28, 2021

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.

But he wasn't just any walk-on.

The younger McGuire was on the headset, communicating offensive plays the whole time he was at Baylor. It's the kind of responsibility that earns backup quarterbacks NFL job security into their late 30s, but for someone in their teens to grasp the material indicated how much they trusted him. Also, his family connections to the staff often made him a go-between from the coaches to the locker room. It helps when the staff's eating breakfast at your house before recruiting trips.

"Oh yeah, my roommates are like: 'The only reason you think like this is coach likes you more,'" McGuire recalled, of conversations with teammates Charlie Brewer and R.J. Sneed. "Both of them were big-time starters for us. I'm like: 'You guys just don't get it, I'm just up there more than you are.'

"I probably brought in on myself, grinding on them a little too hard. I was probably more of a coach to them than a friend sometimes."

He also gained enough confidence to question his coaches from time to time, and learned that's OK as long as you're not just talking back.

"He came into my office one day and said he wanted to go to coach Rhule with something," his father said. "I said, 'That's fine, but you better have a reason why, and have the stuff to back it up.' And he did.

"I saw then he was a football geek, a football junkie. There's no telling how many notebooks he already has, with things written about he wants to get better, and wants to grow as a coach."

Garret McGuire

McGuire didn't get much playing time at Baylor, but he was part of a team that went from a single win to 11 by the time he left. He also graduated in three and a half years, putting him in a position to work now.

Of course, now he's at the very bottom of the coaching ladder, but his dad's not sure he stays there long. Joey McGuire noted with pride that his son's already designing his own offensive system (using the GoArmyEdge app to X-and-O in his spare time), putting every waking hour to learning the game inside-out.

"Whatever guys like Kliff Kingsbury or Sean McVay did to get there, and they're great coaches, but they're not going to out-work Garret," Joey McGuire said. "He wants to be a coordinator someday, and he's working his tail off to get there.

"This is a dad talking, but he has a plan."

Garret is many steps from that kind of job at the moment (though the Panthers do have a coordinator in Joe Brady who's only 10 years older), and his education includes more than football.

Since the family moved from Cedar Hill to Waco prior to Garret's freshman year, Joey McGuire jokes that "mom moved to college with him."

That means, in addition to learning a new job, Garret's also now learning to cook for himself. He said he's figured out how to make tacos and some breakfast staples, but "probably wears out" his mom and his grandparents on FaceTime, asking for advice and catching up with people he's never lived more than an hour away from in his short life.

It's a long way from Texas, and he's a long way from his goal. But Garret drives to his first real job, and he still can't shake the fact he's living out the dream he realized when he was in second grade.

"I got the bug," he said with a smile. "I wake up every day, I drive to the stadium, and it's all lit up, and it's so surreal to me that I get the opportunity to be here."

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