Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mark Barron: “Most Inspirational Player”

By: @LivingCrimson

Last night Alabama safety Mark Barron tweeted a single word, “thankful,” along with a picture of an award given to him by his Tide teammates. It says “Most Inspirational Player Selected by his teammates.”

He was presented the award at the team banquet in 2010. He received the same honor again in 2011, this time sharing the award with Dont’a Hightower. Barron was also elected a permanent 2011 team captain (an honor he repeated from 2010), along with Trent Richardson and Dont’a Hightower. As a captain, his handprints and footprints are in cement on the Walk of Fame in front of Denny Chimes alongside all Tide captains since 1947.

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We so rarely get a glimpse into the inner workings of the team, and it’s usually much different than the perception in the media. In Barron’s case, Sports Illustrated has an excellent article on the two-time national championship winning safety and his quiet leadership on a history-making defense at Alabama.

Full SI story here. Excerpts below.

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The Crimson Tide free safety [metes] out words almost reluctantly. "I'll say things when I have to," the senior explained to SI. … And so Barron remains an enigma wrapped in a body that's been NFL-ready since high school.

He stands 6' 2", 218 pounds and covers 40 yards in less than 4.5 seconds, which is about half as long as it takes him to express an opinion, on the rare occasion he feels like sharing. He … grants media interviews rarely. He hates repeating himself. Barron treats talking points as he does ballcarriers in the open field—as things he shouldn't have to hit again if he hits them hard the first time.

Now Barron is ticketed to the pros—he's regarded as a mid- to late-first-round draft pick—but the way that he has stiff-armed the spotlight may have cost him accolades that would attest to his impact. Named to the AP's 2011 All-America team, Barron watched as flashier rivals from LSU took home even bigger spoils. Barron was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (given to college football's best DB) but lost that to the Tigers' Morris Claiborne. Barron was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) but lost that to LSU super sophomore Tyrann Mathieu. That Barron outplayed Mathieu when their teams met in November—totaling six tackles to Mathieu's five and adding a 14-yard interception return—was overlooked in the 9--6 overtime outcome. That Barron would edge both of those rivals for college football's ultimate team prize was in its way the best revenge. …

Where others beat their chests to make their points, "my leadership style is more my example," Barron says. "If everybody is kind of laid-back, I'll be the one to have a hard hit or something like that." … And if Barron needs to make an adjustment in the secondary, he'll run over and tell his teammates directly instead of barking orders across the field.

"We all come to him when we have a question about a coverage or a play," says his fellow team captain, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who adds that Barron isn't any more animated behind the scenes. "He kind of keeps to himself and watches film all the time."

The irony? Barron's monastic approach may have helped him pull off the ultimate showman's trick: Not only is he closing out his Alabama career at the top of his game, but he's also leaving an audience wanting so much more. That much at least rings loud and clear.

Before the title game in New Orleans, Barron who prominently displays a dove tattoo on his left arm, said, “I don’t play peacefully.” At the national championship celebration on Saturday, Nick Saban said, "I've never seen a more dominant performance than what they did in the national championship game against LSU.”

Here’s hoping Barron is drafted by an NFL team that will appreciate his incredible football IQ, very hard work, and dedication to team – and one that likes to win.

Roll Tide, Mark Barron! You’ve been an inspiration to the Bama nation, too.


More Bama updates on Twitter @LivingCrimson.