Landing a quarterback transfer from a Division I school is a rarity at Arizona State. Having that transfer come from a powerhouse program such as the University of Alabama is unheard of. Blake Barnett’s journey is anything but ordinary and he shared with us the path his football career took from Corona, Calif. via Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Tempe, Ariz.
My first football memory was probably my first ever practice. I was 8 years old playing for the Corona Chargers. I think I was number 64, a defensive end. Probably the most uncoordinated kid you had ever seen. I grew up actually racing motorcycles. Football was a completely different sport for me. My best friend and I decided to play football one year and he had more of an idea of what he was doing than I did. Quite honestly, I played football because, why not? I really didn’t have much familiarity with football in general. My dad didn’t play football. I was just playing it for fun. It was almost immediately when I realized, wow this is something that I will hopefully be able to do for a long time. I found myself extremely passionate about it.
I was kind of fast and could kind of throw the ball a little bit, but I was 8 years old and I didn’t really know how to use my body. The year after that I played running back and the year after that I played quarterback. I played some wide receiver, but from 12 years old on I strictly played quarterback.
Going into high school I was probably 6-2 140 lbs. so if you think I’m skinny now it was pretty bad back then. Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to get recruited in high school. I started as a freshman on the freshman team. I started on the JV as a sophomore and backed up on Varsity. I didn’t start on Varsity until my junior year. So, to all the high school recruits who think it’s detrimental to start on varsity your freshman year – it’s not. I didn’t get recruited until my junior year and I was fortunate to get recruited by a lot of good programs.
I had a pretty good junior year and I was already committed to Alabama by my senior year. The accolades and the recruiting didn’t come right away, it was a process. Our first game was actually on TV and we played Hart High School against (current ASU quarterback) Brady White. I tried to do my best because when you're in high school and you’re not getting recruited, you know it’s that time when you have to do what you have to do to get recruited. So there was pressure and I was lucky things ended up the way they did. I had good teammates around me and a great coach. We didn’t have the best high school team and we didn’t win state championships, but I had a great time. I still talk to my high school coach almost weekly now. So I have great memories from there.
The biggest thing that sold me on Alabama was seeing Lane Kiffin and the offense he had there with Blake Sims who had a tremendous year when I was getting recruited. Blake Sims was more of a dual-threat quarterback. I was thinking that since coach Kiffin came from a pro-style offense at USC and did some great things developing quarterbacks there, and doing all this with a dual-threat quarterback, I was thinking that I could come in and be able to contribute as a pro-style quarterback in that offense.
I didn’t look at it as much as I should of, but Alabama was really hard to pass up honestly. A lot of people know that. They do things there and it works. So, that’s where I ended up and everything happens for a reason. A lot of things happened there that I’m not sure why they have unfolded. But, things kind of happened the way they did and I’m here now. I’m really looking forward to being able to contribute to this team.
The biggest life lesson I took from Alabama was never take anything for granted, I guess you could say. You never really know the circumstances that are going to be put in front of you. Your role, whatever situation you’re in is to do as much as you can, and that’s what was really hard for me is because I truly believe I did as much as I can. I believe I did everything the coaching staff asked from me and I believe I honestly did even more. I’m not saying that to be braggadocious or anything. I’m just saying that because I truly believe it. I’m a firm believer in my work ethic and I’m a firm believer in doing what I have to do and trying to go beyond that and I did that there. The situation unfolded, not really the way I would want it to but things happen for a reason.
I think it was very business oriented there. It’s hard not to be. You’re contending for a national championship every single year. You’re getting some of the best talent in the country. You with some of the top coaches there. Anything less than winning the national championship is unsatisfactory. I think when they have that approach it’s similar to a business. I do believe that you can have that same mentality, build relationships with your teammates, your coaches, be a family and still be successful.
I really wouldn’t say it was one particular thing that made me decide on ASU. There was a lot to take into consideration when looking for a school. Coach Graham does a great job here growing people as players and students as well. I was discovering the man that he is and his integrity is what he’s all about. That was a huge impact on my decision. On top of that, the talent here is tremendous. I believe the weapons here can lead to a very successful team and a very successful season. Those were some of the aspects I looked finding I school and like I said I’m extremely happy to be here. I’m looking forward to spring ball going into the season and competing.
That was another attribute looking into a school, is being able to compete. Coach Graham promised that if I came here I would be able to compete. There are no starting jobs promised, and I wouldn’t expect that. I’m looking forward to hopefully contributing to this team as a starting quarterback.
It was a little surprising to see (former offensive coordinator) Chip Lindsey leave, not in a negative way. It was just kind of unexpected I guess. I didn’t make my decision based off of one coach. For anyone to do that in college football would be silly. It’s sad because a lot of high school kids do, but that’s not really their fault. It’s just something that unknowledgeable about. Being in this thing a couple of years now you know that you can’t make your decision based on one coach. From firsthand experience – they can leave.
I’m really excited coach Napier is here. I’ve been with him for almost two years. It’s great to have that familiarity with one another. He knows my skill set, and I know how he is as a coach. It’s not like I was in the meetings with him every day but I’d see him just about every single day, make small talk with him. It’s almost like a co-worker or partial boss for two years. It’s not like he came in and we were clueless about each other.
The relationship that I have with him is great and it’s a good foundation. Here he’s the same person and coach he was at Alabama, he just has a different role. Being a receivers’ coach at Alabama he has to answer to Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, and now he’s in a role with major significance. I think he will really shine in that position and take advantage of the situation that he’s in to be very successful.
Some of the players on this team are already realizing how passionate he is with everything he does. That definitely goes a long way with players when you can see the drive that some of these coaches have, coach Napier specifically. He’s determined to be successful. And just like myself, he came from a winning university that has had tremendous success. He knows how to be successful and he’s passionate about his relationship with the players and he’s affecting people along the way. I believe those qualities can really help build the team into a championship winning team.
At the end of the day, I think that everyone has a clean slate in this quarterback competition. I don’t think there are any unfair advantages. We all understand our roles and understand that we have to compete. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I don’t want to only contribute to this team, but also affect the people around me. I came here and am building relationships to be the best leader I can be, not only on the field but also off the field as well. Everyone is looking for guidance sometimes in life. I’m 21 years old and I don’t have everything figured out. But I like to affect the people around me in a positive way.
I’m here to win games. I have a good mentality about winning and being successful and that starts with leadership and affecting people.
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