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Hartselle Enquirer

Barker’s journey to Troy

Kaleb Barker gets ready to sign his letter of intent to play football for Troy as his mom Melinda, dad Todd and PHS head football coach Dirk Strunk look on. | Randy Garrison
Kaleb Barker gets ready to sign his letter of intent to play football for Troy as his mom Melinda, dad Todd and PHS head football coach Dirk Strunk look on. | Randy Garrison

Special to the Hartselle Enquirer

 

When Kaleb Barker was a young boy he dreamed of playing college football, not unlike many other boys, but this past week he accepted the offer to play football at Troy University, making that dream a reality.  Ryan Cody of WHNT 19 stated, “Troy University came to Priceville and absolutely stole Kaleb Barker.”  During the interview, in front of the local network cameras and reporters from the area, Barker was asked, “Why Troy?”   “There were three things that I was looking for,” Barker said, “I had to feel like the coaches really wanted me to come play there; I wanted it to feel like home, and I really wanted it to feel like a family, and it was that way.”

Kaleb Barker is the youngest of four Barker children to attend Priceville High School.  Older siblings inspired him and created a path for him to follow.  All siblings have multiple team and individual honors from the county level to state gold medals.  Kaleb was quoted as saying; “I think it would be cool to have my picture on the wall with my sister.”  Kristy Barker Harvell was part of Priceville’s first graduating class in 2005.  She was the first to win an event at the state level and one of the first to receive an athletic scholarship.

As young as three, Kaleb began his quest to excel at sports.  He played T-ball at three, flag football at four, and basketball at five.  Everywhere he went, he had a ball and was ready for a game. Most people around the area will tell you that they know about Kaleb from those recreational league years. Chuck Clemons, one of Barker’s earliest football coaches said,  “I was amazed how accurate Kaleb was and how hard he could throw the ball at age eight.”  Jeff Smith, another early coach of Barker’s, said, “Whether it was on the court or on the field, he was always the most athletic player in the game.”

In those days, Barker and his school buddies won many county championships in baseball, basketball and football. The trend continued for Barker and friends when they entered school-sponsored sports, winning championships in basketball and football.
Barker began to see his dreams coming into focus when he was given the opportunity to start on the varsity football team as a freshman. While the team didn’t fair too well in those early high school years, he began to make a name for himself. That freshman season, he passed for 1,898 yards, scoring 28 touchdowns. He rushed for another 639 yards and added 7 more touchdowns and received honorable mention for the season. Remarkably, he went on to play basketball and baseball as a starter on both varsity teams at PHS.
In his sophomore year he was named “Quarterback of the Year” by the Decatur Daily and received honorable mention for All-State from the AHSAA after having a second great season.  He completed passes for 1,458 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He added 767 yards rushing with 5 touchdowns.  Again, he went on to play basketball and baseball, winning awards for his efforts.
Starting his junior year, he looked poised to be that “Rising Junior” and begin the college recruiting process in earnest.  He was determined, bigger and stronger than previous years, but after playing just the first half of two games, he was sidelined by an injury for the remainder of the season.  Barker had 673 total yards and had scored 8 touchdowns in just 4 quarters of play; clearly on a path to set records and raise his team to new heights.
Barker healed from his injuries and hit the gym, deflecting talk about what could have been, “I wouldn’t

be the player I am today. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it,” Barker said.  He also gathered up many of his old friends and began to look forward to their senior season. During the summer, they trained together and dreamt of what the senior campaign would look like.  Barker and his family traveled to many camps and events to further his training and to help get him noticed by college scouts. This included the annual Elite 11 Quarterback Challenge put on by ESPN in New Orleans.  He also competed at Rivals.com camps in Birmingham and Nashville, as well as the Louisville Quarterback Academy where he was awarded the “Top Gun” award.  The summer was filled with several 7-on-7 tournaments where the Bulldog team participated and the Priceville coaches began to believe Barker was back and ready for a historic season.
As the 2015 season approached, the Priceville community, school and coaching staff could sense that these boys were ready and willing to do the work of winning a championship.  The close group of 22 seniors began to repeat a phrase that would inspire them;  “TFC” which stands for “Time For Change”.  More than half of the seniors had played sports together for the past 10 years. They believed that they could change the culture and reputation of the football program.  They all chose to believe in each other, and based on the standing room only crowds at Priceville home games, so did the community.
Being the quarterback means leadership and Kaleb Barker was just that.  Coach Dirk Strunk recently said about Barker, “He is the best player I have ever coached.”  He led his teammates, both old and new, on the field in the first jamboree game, and showed everyone he was back. Those early rec ball teammates were together again and the community referred to them as the “Band of Brothers.”   It was an awesome sight to see as Priceville would rip through West Morgan; with Barker scoring 7 times, putting up 596 total yards.  That placed him #2 all time in the AHSAA record book for total yards in a game, and he set his career best mark of 410 yards passing.

The very next week, Barker and friends went to JB Pennington, a region contest, that saw Barker set another personal best of 31 completions in a game, (12th in the record book) and racked up 585 yards (4th in the record book) scoring 8 times (tied for #2 for scores in a game).  The Bulldogs won 8 straight games and captured the school’s first region football title, while Barker’s individual stats reset nearly every Priceville record kept for a back.

This season was written about and videos posted on search engines, but only one scholarship offer would come during the season for Barker, despite being contacted by over 40 colleges and universities.  Barker’s individual stats are recorded by the AHSAA record book in 19 different categories.  He is the 2015 4A “Back of the Year”; finished 11th in the Mr. Football voting; 1st team All-State Athlete; Al.com “Player of the Year”; Decatur Daily “Player of the Year” and the 2015 4A Region 7 “Player of the Year”.  His high school career stats are:  432/739 for 6,666 yards and 83 touchdowns; 487 carries for 3,112 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Barker plans to attend summer school at Troy and begin his new journey in August as a freshman student athlete. “We are happy for Kaleb and thankful to get an offer,” Todd Barker, Kaleb’s father stated while the cameras were rolling. “They treated us like we belonged and they kept in touch all along the way.  “It is a good fit.”

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