FB : His plan: Barkley’s faith in God fosters on-field confidence with USC

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first_imgMatt Barkley and Southern California never had a shot at the postseason. The NCAA ban prevented a trip to a bowl game.A third-place finish in the Pac-10 Conference and an 8-5 overall record didn’t matter. It was all for show.But for Barkley, that’s just part of God’s plan.‘That is definitely the absolute rock on which he stands,’ his mom, Beverly Barkley, said. ‘So looking at it through that lens was huge.’Football at USC ended after the regular season in 2010. The NCAA banned the program from the postseason for two years in June of the same year for various violations in its athletic programs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith that ban in place and God’s plan in mind, the Barkley family decided to do something they thought they’d never have the chance to do again. Barkley, his parents, his sister and his younger brother decided to go to Africa on a mission trip — something they did together the summer after Barkley graduated from high school.Had USC been eligible for a bowl game, Barkley would have stayed at school and the family would not have gone. Instead, they spent 11 days — including Christmas — in Nigeria helping the less fortunate.‘It was really amazing how this opportunity opened up because of the bowl ban,’ Barkley said on the USC Athletics website. ‘I hope I get this opportunity again some day, although obviously not under the same circumstances of NCAA sanctions.’Now a junior, Barkley is living out his dream of playing quarterback at USC. Through no fault of his own, the California native won’t be able to lead the Trojans to a Pac-12 championship this year. But since faith has been the most important part of his life since a very young age, he is taking it all in stride. And while the projected first-round NFL Draft pick won’t get to win a bowl game this year, he is relishing the opportunity to be Southern California’s quarterback.‘Instead of grasping onto what was taken away,’ Beverly said, ‘he just has chosen to grasp on what’s there and to be excited about what’s there — playing football in the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum, playing the great schools he plays and representing the university.’***Barkley didn’t start playing football until the sixth grade, but he knew by then he wanted to play quarterback. Brent Melbon, the offensive coach of the Junior All-American Newport-Mesa Seahawks team Barkley played on, saw that he already had the best arm of the quarterbacks on the team.During the season, the Seahawks’ head coach tried to move Barkley to guard. But the sixth-grader cried the entire way home after practice that day.When Melbon heard about the decision, he fought it. He took an hour to explain that Barkley should be the quarterback.‘He’s the one guy that can do it,’ Melbon recalls telling the other coach. ‘You brought me here to coach the offense. Let me do it. This is the guy. Give me a little time, and he’ll be good.’Barkley got the quarterback job and never looked back. He led the Seahawks to the Junior All-American Championship two years later before walking into the perfect situation at football factory Mater Dei (Calif.) High School.Monarchs’ quarterback Jason Forcier had just transferred before his senior season. Next in line would have been his two younger brothers, Chris and Tate. All three eventually went on to play quarterback at Division I programs. But the family moved to San Diego, forcing Chris and Tate to transfer as well and opening the door for Barkley.‘Here comes this 14-year-old who we had seen in some of our youth camps,’ Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson said. ‘And we made the decision to fast forward him and to put him into the varsity competition. And low and behold, the kid wins the spot.’The list of former Mater Dei quarterbacks includes Colt Brennan, Matt Leinart and Todd Marinovich, all of whom had stellar college careers before making it to the NFL.Barkley was the first to start as a freshman during Rollinson’s 22 years as head coach.With that came growing pains. He had to learn a system that sometimes asked the quarterback to call three plays in the huddle and choose which one would work best at the line of scrimmage. He had to adjust to seeing over a varsity offensive line, as well as avoid the varsity pass rush coming at him.But in all that, Rollinson saw plenty of positive signs from his quarterback.‘I’d say 95 percent of high school kids couldn’t do it,’ he said. ‘That’s what made him special. He struggled at times, but all in all, we’re looking, going: ‘I can’t believe this kid is doing this.”Barkley’s career continued on the upswing. He started at Mater Dei with good arm strength and accuracy for a freshman. And Rollinson said he committed to the weight room after that freshman year.Those traits both continued to develop, along with his touch on the ball, his leadership and his understanding of the game.‘He had a very, very developed arm,’ Rollinson said. ‘He had a natural throwing motion, and he had a lot of zing on the ball, which obviously would grow tremendously over the four years that we had him.’***Barkley’s college decision came down to one simple question: Would nearby USC be interested?His dad and grandmother both went to school at Southern California. He grew up a 45-minute drive from campus. And he knew all about the history and tradition of the football program.‘This is where he always wanted to go,’ Beverly, his mom, said. ‘Always. That was his dream school.’He started generating recruiting buzz after throwing for 1,349 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore. Division I coaches poured into his practices and games. By the spring of that year, he had dozens of scholarship offers. And that was before he became the first junior to ever be named the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.Barkley committed to USC after the season was over. But even if he hadn’t turned into the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country and the Trojans never offered, Barkley might have just shrugged off the rejection.His faith in God would have allowed him to do so.‘Without Christ, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am today,’ Barkley said in an email to The Daily Orange. ‘God put me in this place for a specific reason, and I intend to honor Him and trust in Him in everything I do.’Beverly and her husband, Les, instilled their strong faiths into all three of their children. They noticed Barkley start to grab hold of that faith and develop his own relationship with God in kindergarten.And that has followed him all the way to the USC campus.‘He leads all our team prayers before the game, after the game,’ said Max Wittek, who played quarterback at Mater Dei after Barkley and is now a freshman at USC. ‘He prays before every game. He just puts a lot of faith in God to do whatever His plan for him is.’His faith has helped him on the field, too. Melbon and Rollinson both gushed that nothing ever seems to shake him, as evidenced by the Trojans comeback win at Ohio State in 2009.Then a freshman, Barkley led the Trojans on a game-winning, 86-yard touchdown drive to beat the Buckeyes in front of 106,033 fans.‘He’s the most unique kid that I’ve ever been around,’ Melbon said. ‘Nothing fazes him. His faith is so strong, he won’t worry about anything else. He knows where he comes from, he knows where he’s going and he doesn’t worry about anything else.’Where he’s going looks like the NFL. He’s already a top prospect thanks to his strong arm and accuracy. Still, he said he’d like to improve that accuracy and cut down on interceptions.Barkley believes he’ll get to the NFL — if it’s God’s vision to get him there. Any obstacles that get in his way, he believes he can work through them — if God wants him to do so.NCAA bans included.‘I know that all things happen for a reason,’ Barkley said. ‘My plan is not nearly as put together as God’s is for me, and I’m so trusting in him that this will work out for the better of our team, the better of our program, and the better of our university.’[email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on September 13, 2011 at 12:00 pmlast_img

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