By Rubin E. Grant
Before the start of the 2019 high school football season, Spain Park offensive coordinator Marty Rozell had a message for senior quarterback Harrison Barker and his teammates.
“Our offensive coach told us it was going to be a Johnny Manziel type of season with us throwing a lot because we had a young offensive line,” Barker said.
Manziel won the 2012 Heisman Trophy as a freshman at Texas A&M. He broke several NCAA Division I FBS and SEC records, which included becoming the first freshman and fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
In Barker’s first varsity start for the Jaguars last fall, he set a school record. He completed 28 of 38 passes for a school-record 488 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 16 yards. He logged more than 500 yards total offense, leading the Jaguars to a 42-33 victory at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
It was the beginning of a Manziel-type season for Barker, the son of former Alabama national championship quarterback Jay Barker.
Harrison Barker finished the season with 2,946 yards passing, completing 62.9% of his passes (232 of 369). He threw for 17 touchdowns, but on the downside he had 16 interceptions. He also ran for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
For his performance, Barker was selected the Over The Mountain Journal’s 2019 Offensive Player of the Year in a vote of Over the Mountain coaches.
“He had a really good year,” Spain Park coach Shawn Raney said. “I felt coming in he was that type of player. He’s an excellent leader and he had good people to throw to. He put in a lot of work in the offseason. He reached all of our expectations.”
The honor caught Barker off guard.
“I’m very thankful,” Barker said. “I feel like it’s a great honor, but I am a little surprised because there are a lot of good players Over the Mountain.”
Barker credited his teammates for his success.
“We had some very good wide outs,” he said. “Our top four receivers were all very good receivers and blockers, and we had some good players who could catch the ball out of the backfield.”
The one drawback for Barker was Spain Park had a losing season, finishing 4-6 and missing the state playoffs.
“I really wish we had won more games,” he said. “We could have won three or four of the games we lost.”
The 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound Barker hopes to get a shot at playing college football.
“I don’t have many options where to play,” he said. “I’m hoping some schools will give me a chance. I don’t know if I can do what my brother (Braxton) did, walking on at Alabama. I want to play. I want to get on the field.”
Barker heads up the All-OTMJ offense. He is one of four Spain Park players voted to the offensive team, joining running back Michael Callens, receiver Jacob Jenkins and place-kicker Drake Tabor.
Hoover, Homewood and Mountain Brook landed two players each on the offense. The Bucs representatives were running back Anthony Hayes and lineman David Bodden. The Patriots’ were lineman Lucas Padgett and receiver Trae Ausmer. The Spartans’ were lineman Andrew Fleming and receiver Crawford Golden.
Vestavia Hills quarterback Eli Sawyer, Briarwood Christian lineman Trent Howard and John Carroll Catholic lineman Jack Horton also were voted to the squad.