Don’t get it twisted: A.J. Barker is misunderstood. And, for once, the assembled media got a story completely right from the beginning.
You see, the media tabbed Barker –and his entire clan, for that matter—as free thinkers. A.J. simply cannot by constrained by the shackles of Draconian and feeble minded authoritarians. With breadth and depth, every news alert and headline produced by A.J. signifies just how far he outpaces the boorish simpletons who question and challenge his mettle.
He correctly anticipated his extensive diatribe on the mental manipulation endured under the abusive and outdated heavy hand of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill would make him a martyr for all football players, especially former walk-ons, subject to excessive and harsh treatments at the hand of power hungry and psychotic zealots.
He deftly spun his string of media appearances to shine a light on the seething underbelly of major college football, one in which head coaches have complete control over the daily lives of their players and routinely put walk-ons through mental gymnastics to achieve the ultimate goal of a scholarship. Barker exposed the truth, that the best and most physically gifted players are not always rewarded with playing time and equal footing with their recruited scholarship peers, an injustice that continues to blight the college football landscape.
He effortlessly and gracefully applied leverage to pry himself from under the thumb of a coach not with the times, and certainly not one with the mental fortitude and clarity of visionary thinkers like the Barker’s. In doing so, he made a name for himself not as a football player but a revolutionary, one who could break down the old paradigm of head coaching authoritarian rule and place the power back in the hands of student athletes.
Having tackled the stodgy power structure of college football with a soft landing at the more progressive football institution at the University of Houston (a move that can only be appreciated when you consider A.J. was willing to move there without a scholarship), Barker has set his sights on an even bigger injustice: the petty criminalization of cannabis and its impact on our jails, government budgets, fearful border communities and the very socioeconomic fabric of American life. That he took on such a cause so quickly after arriving in Houston shows not only a consciousness for local issues but a true unselfishness that the NCAA should market as a true student-athlete success story.
His mind and body are his own. You can’t break his will, nor will you get him to conform. His selfless, brave, seasoned and especially heedful acts are to be celebrated, not buried or ridiculed.
Hats off to the media for getting the narrative right from the beginning.