Football: DV vs MP

Desert Vista's Garrison Schwartz (56) has hand in almost every unit - offense, defense and special teams - to become of the Thunder's most valuable players.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

There was a time when the feet of Garrison Schwartz were holding him back and now they just might take him where he wants to go.

Schwartz has developed into a reliable field goal kicker, and so much more, for Desert Vista after enduring much pain when he first entered high school as a 5-foot-4 freshman.

He had Sever’s disease, which is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation (swelling) of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite, which is how bones grow.

It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately two-year period in early puberty. It lasted close to three years for Schwartz.

“It was a lot of pain and I was really small,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever play varsity.”

Either did Thunder coach Dan Hinds, whose team (3-4) travels to Dobson (2-5) this week.

“Garrison was a little guy, but you could see the desire to play all out,” Hinds said. “He worked harder than just about anyone.”

The foot plate eventually closed and he grew four inches to 5-8 before his sophomore year, when he got a chance to play some offensive line for the varsity. He had a toughness about him that he needed to get by with when he was still waiting on the growth spurt.

When he did start to fill out that toughness was ingrained and he could start pushing others around now that he is 6-1 and 210 pounds.

Now as a senior he is doing just about everything for the Thunder; as he is starting at guard or center on the offensive line, plays along the defensive front, both at end and tackle, and plays three of the special teams including place kicker, where he is 3-for-3 on the season.

“He is one of our MVPs,” Thunder offensive line coach Brent Miller said. “He is smart, tough and willing to do whatever I ask of him. He is playing both guard and center for us depending on the lineup we use.

“He makes all of the line calls and you can’t question his effort.”

Schwartz, who is also one of the top Thunder baseball players, takes pride in the fact that the coaching staff has put him in several different positions.

“They move around to wherever they need me,” he said. “It shows me that they have confidence in me to do a lot of things. It’s not easy, but I am ready to whatever they need me to do.”

Hinds is appreciative of that type of approach when today’s athletes tend to be specialized and worried about nothing but getting a scholarship.

“Garrison puts the team first and that isn’t always the case anymore,” Hinds said. “You never have to question his motivation. He is a great teammate and he doesn’t know any other way to approach it.”

Schwartz is starting to gain attention of recruiters in the kicking game, where he has made two 37-yarders, with hopes of finding a spot on a roster as a walk-on somewhere.

“If it comes together I’d love that chance,” he said. “I never would have guessed that would be possible when I was a freshman and my feet were hurting so bad.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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