By Rubin E. Grant
Harrison Barker doesn’t have any qualms about following in the footsteps of his dad and older brother as a high school quarterback.
In fact, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Spain Park senior rather enjoys playing the position his dad, Jay Barker, played at Hewitt-Trussville and his brother, Braxton, played at Spain Park.
Jay Barker went on to quarterback Alabama to the 1992 college football national championship and Braxton is now a walk-on quarterback with the Crimson Tide.
“It’s awesome,” Harrison Barker said about his family quarterbacking predecessors. “There’s so much experience I can draw from. My dad helps me out with everything, watching film and working on my mechanics.
“There’s no pressure on me. I’m just trying to play a game I love. My dad wants me to go out and have fun.”
Harrison Barker certainly had plenty of fun in his first varsity start, on Aug. 23, sporting the familiar jersey, No. 7, which is the number his father wore in college and his brother wore at Spain Park. He completed 28 of 38 passes for a school-record 488 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran for 16 yards, giving him more than 500 yards total offense while leading the Jaguars to a 42-33 victory at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
Barker couldn’t believe the numbers he put up. “I was very surprised,” he said modestly. “I thought I had thrown for like 200 yards. It’s crazy to see how many yards I had.
“The offense played really good. The receivers were good, and Michael Callens ran really well. Our coaches did a good job of calling the game, particularly our offensive coordinator, coach (Marty) Rozell.”
His dad and his brother were both there to witness it. Afterward, both congratulated him.
“My dad said I played pretty good and he was proud of me,” Harrison Barker said.
Spain Park coach Shawn Raney praised Barker’s season-opening performance.
“He had a great night,” Raney said. “He’s a winner. He’s a good, humble kid. He’s a Barker. What else can you say?”
Barker doesn’t mind being compared to his dad and brother, but he believes he might be one up on them in one aspect of the game.
“I’m similar to them in that they were both very good throwing the football, but I don’t want to brag or anything, but I feel I’m more athletic because I’m a better runner,” Harrison Barker said with a slight laugh. “Neither one of them ran very much.”
There is one person in the family who might be a better athlete —Harrison’s twin sister, Sarah Ashlee Barker. She’s a gifted basketball player who has committed to Georgia. She led Spain Park to the 2018 Class 7A state championship as a sophomore and was the 2019 OTMJ Girls Basketball Player of the Year as a junior.
Harrison Barker jokingly takes credit for his sister’s basketball prowess.
“I’m the reason she’s good,” he quipped.
Sarah Ashlee doesn’t necessarily disagree. On the day she committed to Georgia, she tweeted, “To my brothers, thank y’all for blocking my shots, dunking on me throughout the years.”
The Barker twins played basketball frequently while growing up. “We’re very close,” Harrison Barker said. “We basically do everything together.”
The twins still go up to Spain Park and shoot hoops, but they won’t face off against each other. “She wants to play one-on-one, but I decline because I think she might beat me,” Harrison Barker said with a hearty laugh.
Sarah Ashlee loved seeing her twin brother shred Hillcrest’s defense, tweeting “BRO BALLED OUT!!!”
People He Can Count On
Harrison Barker probably will “ball out” more this season, thanks to a bevy of playmakers, including Callens, a senior running back, and 6-foot 4-inch senior tight end Jacob Jenkins, plus receivers George Hill, Cooper Kelley, David Moultry and Jaylen Ward. Moultry and Ward are both sophomores.
“It’s a blessing, knowing if I throw it up, one of them will get it,” Barker said. “I believe whenever I get it to them, we’re going to score. This is the most athletic team I’ve been on.”
Raney considers his skilled players to be the key to whatever success Barker has this season. “I think he’ll have a big year as the kids continue to get better,” Raney said.
Barker, however, isn’t concerned with putting up glossy statistics. “My goal is to win every game,” he said. “That’s all I care about. I don’t care about statistics. It’s my senior year and I want to go out winning every game.”
Raney was not surprised by those remarks. “He’s a competitor,” Raney said. “He hates to lose.”
The Jaguars finished 4-6 in 2018 and missed the state playoffs. They face a daunting challenge, trying to earn a playoff berth this season. They play in Class 7A, Region 3, considered by many as the best and most difficult region in the state. It includes heavyweights Hoover and Thompson as well as Hewitt-Trussville, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Oak Mountain and Tuscaloosa County.
Barker is confident the Jaguars can navigate the region and get to the playoffs. After hosting Bessemer City last week, the Jaguars play their first region game at Vestavia Hills on Sept. 6.
“I think we have a good chance of going to the playoffs,” Barker said. “Our offense is really good and the defense can step it up.”
The key, he added, is limiting mistakes. “Our coaches have emphasized not turning the ball over,” Barker said. “That’s the main reason we lost several games last year.”
After this season, Barker hopes to play college football. Because of his size, he has attracted little attention from NCAA Division I scouts, but Raney believes Barker will play somewhere at the next level. He has an offer from Centre College, a Division III school in Danville, Kentucky.
“He might not fit the mold some recruiters are looking for, but he’s one of those kids that if you get him on campus, you’re going to like him,” Raney said. “He’s a winner.”