Garret Wallow read the quarterback’s eyes, picking up invaluable clues about the impending path of the football.
Reacting instinctively, the Texas Christian linebacker adeptly jumped into the passing lane to intercept an errant pass in traffic.
In other sequences, Wallow routinely penetrated the backfield and either ripped the football away from running backs or slammed them to the ground. Wallow was particularly stout around the goal line, protecting the end zone by jumping over the top to halt any forward progress.
A converted safety from New Orleans, Wallow’s significant body of work provided plenty of examples of his ultra-productive, aggressive style of play. What’s evident on the film of the Texans’ fifth-round draft pick is a passionate desire to get to the football and inflict punishment and an ability to diagnose plays through anticipation.
All of those qualities in addition to Wallow's work ethic and personality is why Texans second-year defensive tackle Ross Blacklock is eager to reunite with his former college teammate.
“I went crazy when they drafted Garret,” Blacklock said. “I was driving and I was trying to call him, but I knew he was busy. I was screaming in the car all the way back to Houston. Anybody that knows Garret, knows he deserves it He’s the hardest working dude in the room. He’ll be a leader, for sure.”
The Texans drafted Wallow 170th overall because they regarded him as a strong fit for defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s 4-3 defense, a shift from the 3-4 the Texans used previously. At TCU, Wallow operated out of a 4-2-5 alignment.
A two-time All-Big 12 Conference selection, Wallow had 287 career tackles, 32 ½ for losses and 9 ½ sacks
“Garret was in the box a little bit, he played detached from the formation,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. “Instinctive player, runs well, can close space, is a decent tackler, A-plus football makeup and character, which that's important to what we're trying to do.”
Wallow ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the Horned Frogs’ campus Pro Day workout where he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times and had a 32 ½ inch vertical leap, a 10-2 broad jump, a 4.12 short shuttle and a 6.87 three-cone drill.
At 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, Wallow isn’t the biggest linebacker. However, Smith’s defense puts a priority on mobility, intelligence and hitting ability over bulk.
“One thing about me is just leadership, so that’s one thing that I want to bring to the Texans, is just coming in and being the best leader that I can, being the best player for the team that I can,” Wallow said. “ Definitely want to come in there and learn the playbook, be a smart player for the Texans and help out anyway that I can for us to win a Super Bowl. The most important thing is just being the best teammate that I can. That’s probably the most valuable thing I bring to the table.”
Wallow had 90 tackles last season, including nine for losses and three sacks, five quarterback hits and three forced fumbles.
Playing for a defensive-minded coach in Gary Patterson prepared Wallow for the NFL.
“I would definitely say they helped me raise my IQ, definitely helped me think of football differently more from a player standpoint and a student as well,” Wallow said. “I guess just really for smart-wise, definitely from a professional level. Definitely just prepared the best way possible especially being under Coach P, such a great coach. Holding everybody to a high standard, not letting anybody slack for nothing. From that standpoint, definitely prepared me for where I’m about to be now.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128