Skip to main content

Editor's Note: This feature on Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is the third story in's "Meet the Scouts" series.

The series provides insight into key members of the Falcons' player personnel department, and behind the scenes looks at how the Falcons discovered some of their top players.

By Kris Rhim

It was January of 2014. Clemson versus Ohio State at the Orange Bowl.

Falcons then-regional scout Anthony Robinson was in the building with his notebook in hand, prepared to scout two of the best teams in the nation.

January is one of the most important times of the year for scouts. Major bowl games give them an opportunity to evaluate the most talented players in the country matching up head-to-head, and Ohio State and Clemson's Orange Bowl matchup had as much future talent as one could ask for.

Clemson boasted future first-round picks and other NFL talent such as Sammy Watkins, Vic Beasley, and Ohio State had Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby, to name a few.

Yet, it was another player who caught Robinson's attention.

"Watching the game, I was like 'Holy S*!'" said Robinson, now Falcons director of college scouting, "He's hitting gaps, tackling, making plays in the backfield. He's getting sacks. He's beating blocks.


"Like, this is Ohio State, this is a big-time program. They won the national championship. They got guys going to the NFL flying out of there every year, right? So if he's doing this against Ohio State, why can't he do this in the NFL?"

The player wreaking havoc on the Ohio State offensive line that day was future Falcons Pro Bowl defensive lineman Grady Jarrett. In his seventh professional season, Jarrett has become one of the best interior rushers in the league. In the offseason, NFL players ranked Jarrett as the 54th best player in the NFL top 100. And he Falcons rewarded Jarrett for his play in 2019 by making him the third highest-paid interior defensive linemen in the league.

Yet, just seven years ago, Jarrett was not seen as the surefire NFL superstar he has become. Standing barely 6-foot, 300-pounds at the time, his size was an issue for scouts, and every NFL team passed up on Jarrett. He was the tenth defensive tackle drafted when the Falcons selected him in the fifth round at No. 137 overall.

Scouts typically look for interior rushers that are at least 6-foot-3 and weighing over 300 pounds with long arms needed to get to the quarterback and swat balls down at the line of scrimmage. Players like Fletcher Cox, Ndamukong Suh, and others who have been among the league's best defensive tackles are the prototype that scouts look for.

At just under 6-feet and 300 pounds pounds at Clemson, Jarrett did not exactly fit the mold. Still, his character and talent was undeniable.

"He was undersized for the position, but he's playing at a big-time program," Robinson said. "He's playing guys that are gonna play in the NFL, right? And he's kicking their ass! So putting everything else together with who he was as a person, his toughness, it's like, I know he's not prototypical size, but I like this guy."

Robinson pounded the table for emphasis as he praised Jarrett, just as he did before the 2015 NFL Draft.

Jarrett finished with six tackles and one sack in the Orange Bowl, leading Clemson to the 40-35 win over Ohio State. He continued his dominance the following year in his senior season, recording 73 tackles, ten tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks before he headed to the NFL.


The following year, Clemson won the national championship over Ohio State and has become a perennial powerhouse. Even with Jarrett long gone from the Tiger locker room, the culture he helped develop intensified, and because of that longtime Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables believes Jarrett is essential to the Tigers' success.

"There's nobody that had more of an impact on the defensive mindset since I've been at Clemson than Grady," said Venables, now head coach at the University of Oklahoma. "He just changed the defensive huddle. He changed the locker room. His mindset was different."

And there is one moment from Jarrett's time at Clemson that stands out to Venables. It was Jarrett's final game, Clemson was leading Oklahoma 40-0 in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Venables was looking to take Jarrett out, giving him what's known as a "curtain call," where fans stand up and cheer for a standout player in their final game.

Jarrett did not want any part of that. He wanted to keep playing.

"Human nature is to pat yourself on the back," Venables said. "Human nature is to put your guard down. Human nature is to have a lot of success and think you're all that, but the best of the best, they're never satisfied. And If he's something, that's who he was. He is such a passionate, relentless leader."

Venables added: "There's no way that we have the foundation that we do without Grady Jarrett."

Jarrett has helped build a similar culture in Atlanta, earning the respect of his teammates and the coveted title of team captain. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees says Jarrett brings "everything" to the Falcons defense on and off the field.

In his first year in Atlanta, Pees has constantly been impressed with the tenacity Jarrett brings to practice and his obsession with studying film and correcting mistakes. Jarrett reminds Pees of former Hall of Famers and All-Pros he has coached or been around in the past like Ray Lewis, Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady, and Randy Moss, to name a few.

"He's what all young players should aspire to be," Pees said. "That's a professional football player who takes his job seriously in every aspect."

Seven years since that game against Ohio State, Jarrett has fully established himself as a superstar in the NFL and a game-changer on the Falcons defense.

And he is still making Robinson and now Falcons fans scream holy s*, as they watch him make plays on Sundays.

back to top

Related Content