TyJuan Garbutt came to Virginia Tech as a talented four-star defensive end back in 2017 from Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was considered a big win for the Hokies on the recruiting trail to sign a player out of a region of the state that other schools had seemingly gained more traction in recent years.
While a bit undersized, Garbutt was a fantastic athlete who fit the mold of what then-defensive coordinator Bud Foster looked for in pass-rushers.
Garbutt redshirted in 2017 and made his debut in the Hokies’ season-opening win over Florida State. Garbutt registered a sack in the win over the Seminoles. It was also the debut for cornerback Caleb Farley, who finished with a sack and two interceptions, leaving many Hokie fans excited about the future of the defense.
Garbutt would battle an injury in 2018 but played in every game and made five starts. He started 11 games in 2019, finishing with 31 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and one sack.
Garbutt was expected to be one of Virginia Tech’s breakout defenders in 2020. However, that didn’t happen as Garbutt was battling a family matter. The family matter was that his father was battling health concerns, and Garbutt decided to step away from football for a bit.
While he did return and play in four games, he was never quite the same and discussed many things in an outstanding story with David Teel of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I just wasn’t in the right state mentally,” Garbutt told Teel. “And I wasn’t … emotionally stable [enough] to really commit to one thing. I was kind of in a dark place last year with all that going on. My grades were slipping; a lot of things were happening.”
When Garbutt needed him the most, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente was there for him.
“I knew Fu would go to war for me,” Garbutt said. “I mean that in all the right ways.”
He’s done nothing but support me and continue to let me know that there’s a reason why I was really his first commitment when he took over this job. And there’s a reason why even though I decommitted and was looking at other places, there’s a reason why he didn’t just go, you know, ‘All right, I don’t want that guy.’ Because genuinely, he came to my house, and he knew that I was a good kid, a kid that just kind of needed a chance, a chance to really maybe get around a different environment, a structured environment. And I just love that man.
So, for as much as Virginia Tech fans or media members crush Fuente for his record or the lack of access to the program, it was never fair to question his character. There’s a reason why so many players who’ve played under Fuente adamantly defend him as a good man and coach.
When Garbutt needed him the most, Fuente was there for him. That’s what all college coaches should do for the young men and women who commit to them out of high school. Your job isn’t just to win but to help mold the lives of these athletes and prepare them for life beyond sports.
Kudos to Fuente and defensive line coach Bill Teerlinck. Also, it is great to hear Garbutt is in a better place and ready to get back on the field.
“To me, it’s been fun (spring practice),” Garbutt said. “I feel like I fell in love with the game again.”
Everyone do yourself a favor and read Teel’s excellent story.