M.J. Garrett: Life after the Real World

So, you thought you'd seen the last of M.J. Garrett, the former Vandy receiver turned reality TV star? Think again. The never-shy, golden-locked Garrett talks with Brent Wiseman about his experiences on The Real World... his upcoming TV venture... his current gig with a Nashville radio station... and yes, his love life.

Had you been present in Birmingham last week for SEC Football Media Days, you might have wandered across an unusual scene: Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler being interviewed by M.J. Garrett, the ex-Vandy receiver who used to haul down Cutler's passes when the two were teammates back in 2002. What's up with that?

Most Vandy fans know that after his graduation in 2003, Garrett went on to TV fame when he joined the cast of the MTV reality show The Real World: Philadelphia. In this VandyMania exclusive, the never-shy, golden-locked Garrett talked with Brent Wiseman about his experiences on The Real World... his upcoming TV venture... his current gig with a Nashville radio station... and yes, his love life.

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VandyMania: M.J., you're familiar to all Vandy fans as a former player, and a TV star... but now you're... doing what here at SEC Media Days?

M.J. Garrett: Yeah, I'm getting back into it. I've been out of football two years. I kind of put all that in the closet, once it didn't work out for me in furthering my career in the NFL. I'm now doing some stuff with 1510 WLAC... every Friday night I'm on with them doing some color commentating. I definitely don't know everything, but I can definitely comment on a whole lot.

VM: So they're bringing you on as sort of a... football commentator?

M.J. Oh yeah, it's definitely football, but it's to give kind of an insider's perspective. Obviously, having played in the SEC, you know a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. I'm really excited about it. It's bringing back a whole lot of good memories from Vanderbilt, and I'm able to talk about them all.

VM: Anything else you're involved in right now?

M.J. Yeah! The last year of my life has just been ridiculous. I've been traveling about 20 days out of the month, doing "appearances" believe it or not, speaking at colleges, and also speaking for a travel company. Also, I just filmed another show for MTV that will premier in October. It's one of the "Challenges"... "The Gauntlet II." I get to be athletic again, believe it or not!

VM: You were kind of a public figure when you were at Vanderbilt, but you made the decision to really open up your whole life to the world when you went on the TV show. Was that a hard decision for you? Or did you just say, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I can't pass it up?

M.J. You know, Brent, it's something I kind of fell into. I had never even really watched the show before. I had moved out to Los Angeles to get into soap operas. Actually, after I graduated from Vanderbilt, I was doing marketing and development with Backfield in Motion. It was good, it was OK, but I wasn't ready for a 9-to-5... I was wearing a pink polo and khakis to work every day, and I was like, this isn't me. I went out to L.A., and about a month into it, I met a casting director for the show. They were looking for a Southern guy. They asked if I'd be interested, and I said, sure! I was out here looking to shake things up. It ended up that about three months after that, I was living in Philadelphia [filming The Real World].

I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Obviously you expose yourself a lot, but I am who I am. I'm not ashamed of it, and I never have been. I never was at Vanderbilt. My family knows me, my friends know me, and that's really all I care about.

VM: Do you find that people recognize you in airports and various places now?

M.J. It's... I don't want to say it's ridiculous, but it's a lot bigger that I thought it was going to be. I thought that maybe one or two people occasionally would say, "Hey, man, you're on that show," but now I can hardly go out to dinner or anything without people coming up to me. It's fun... I complain about it every now and again, but as soon as it's done, I'll probably be complaining about people not coming up any more (laughs).

VM: Do you maintain any relationships with any of the other cast members... or did it all end when the show was over?

M.J. You know, I really don't. I have respect for all of them. But my friends in Nashville are my friends, and they're people whom I've chosen to be friends with, instead of friends that were picked to live with me, if that makes any sense. I see [cast members] every now and then when I'm doing an appearance, but not much more than that.

VM: You sort of opened up your whole personal life when you did that show, so I guess I have to ask you... any personal relationships going on in your life right now?

M.J. Yeah, without a doubt. I'm actually still with Ashley, for people who watched the show and heard me talk about her. It was obviously very hard while we were doing the show to maintain a normal relationship. But since I've been back, everything has pretty much been back to normal. What's so funny, and I don't know if you remember this, but there was this big article my senior year with me and one of my ex-girlfriends.

VM: Yeah, I remember that article... I wrote it.

M.J. That's right! I remember that now. But what's so funny is, it seems like my relationships now are so damn public. It's the weirdest thing ever... it puts a little pressure on me.

VM: I guess that relationship must have gone down the toilet?

M.J. I wouldn't say it went down the toilet... we just moved on. We were young, you know?

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