Garth as you've never seen him before
Monday, April 01, 1996. Country Weekly
Back in college, when he threw the javelin for Oklahoma State University, Garth put every muscle into it except one - his heart. That, he reserved for music.
Garth attended OSU in Stillwater, Okla., from 1980 to 1983, with a partial athletic scholarship. In these photos, taken by an assistant coach, you can see his athletic form and the darker, fuller head of hair he sported.
What you can't see is Garth's interest fading. He told COUNTRY WEEKLY he enjoyed his time as a college athlete, but it helped convince him that music was his first love.
The javelin "wasn't at all for me," Garth said. "It was for the good guys who would eat, sleep and think javelin. They'd work on it all the time and didn't consider it work. Me, just hauling that damn thing down the runway was work."
Dick Weis, Garth's track and field coach during the final year of his program, agrees with the superstar's candid assessment.
"He was OK," said coach Weis. "He was adequate. He wasn't outstanding. He wasn't terrible. He'd win some of the smaller meets. He was just a good kid. He came to practice all the time. We never had any problems with him. If he wasn't throwing good, he'd get upset, but that was typical."
Garth's personal-best throw was 211 feet, Weis recalled. The current OSU record is nearly 256 feet; the NCAA record is 295 feet, 2 inches.
"He always tried hard," said Mike Platt, one of Garth's closest college pals. "He gave it all the effort he had. I think he just did javelin because nobody else did. He kind of talked me into going out to throw. It was more recreational than anything."
Gary Polson, who snapped these photographs when he volunteered as a walk-on assistant coach, says Garth "was smaller than most people. He didn't train incredibly hard, but he was average."
The future superstar was well above average in one area, Polson said. "Garth was a strong eater," he recalled. "I was power lifting at that time, and he kind of coined the word 'power eating.' He thought that was funny. We would all go power eating together. There was a little restaurant west of town here called The Redwood West that would have ribs on one night a week, and several throwers would go out there and eat on that night. "Garth could put down with the big boys."
Of course, Garth also had time for his one true passion - music. After days in classes and on the field, he spent his nights exercising his vocal cords at Wild Willy's or as a bouncer at a country bar called Tumbleweeds.
"Music is more a question of how can you not be committed to it - especially with all you get back out of it," Garth said. And he said of the "good guys" who put all of their energy into sports: "If what these guys got out of it, working their butts off in javelin, is anything like what I get out of music, then I can understand them doing it."