Henry Garrison arrived at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY, two years ago as a project and left as a major college prospect.
Garrison is a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end from Palisades, NY, who was a last-minute addition to East Carolina’s recruiting Class of 2020 during the early December signing period. He’s already enrolled at ECU for the spring semester and based on comments by head coach Mike Houston could be a contributor on the defensive front next fall.
But Garrison’s route to a Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship was anything but typical.
As a quarterback, receiver and defensive lineman at Tappan Zee High School between from 2015-16, Garrison had his moments. He was a three-year letterwinner and as a senior threw three touchdown passes to lead the Dutchmen to a 25-7 win against rival Pearl River on the way to 668 yards passing and eight scores on the season. His 70-yard touchdown pass against Harrisonburg and the catch by teammate Kyle Daily was even highlighted by an article in USA Today’s High School Sports edition.
But the then 6-6, 215-pound Garrison received little interest from college recruiters after graduation, so he enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College in nearby Troy. He joined the football team as a tight end and actually appeared in one game during the 2017 season, making two catches for 14 yards.
Both of Garrison’s receptions that season came in the opener, a 42-13 loss for Hudson Valley against Nassau.
“He actually got hurt against us,” Nassau head coach Jamel Ramsey said. “The next thing I know he shows up on our doorstep. We didn’t recruit him. I just think he was a New York state kid and knew we had something special going on here, so he decided to show up.
“Of course, when he walked through the door his size and speed were something we were attracted to. But we knew he was a project kid.”
By the time he enrolled at Nassau, Garrison had experienced some significant growth, going from 220 pounds at Hudson Vallley to 275. He immediately made an impact on Nassau’s defensive front, making 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as a freshman.
Following the 2018 season, Garrison approached Ramsey for advice.
“He came along that first year and did OK,” Ramsey said. “But he came to me and told me he had dreams and aspirations of playing at the Division I level. I told him he had another year to develop and that summer he should focus on putting on weight. He did just that and was ready to go.”
Garrison followed that freshman performance by collecting 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and two more sacks as a sophomore as Nassau went 7-4 and qualified for the Graphic Edge Bowl against Iowa Central. Garrison logged three tackles in that game, including a play that Ramsey called one of his season highlights.
“On one play he chased down the Iowa Central quarterback,” Ramsey said. “It was natural ability and his high motor that made that play.”
A day before that Dec. 8 bowl game, East Carolina came calling and offered Garrison a scholarship. It came just two days after another American Athletic Conference team, Tulsa, had extended an offer.
Garrison quickly arranged official recruiting visits to both Tulsa and East Carolina before signing with the Pirates on the first day of the early period on Dec. 18.
“It all happened very quickly for him,” Ramsey said. “I’m excited for him because nobody is more deserving than that young man. He didn’t cut any corners. He didn’t get upset or blame anyone for not recruiting him out of high school or having to go the junior college route. He put in the work and time to build his body up.
“He’s still a little raw around the edges. But he’ll be around some great coaches who’ll get him there. I think he has a great amount of potential and the best is yet to come.”