COLUMBIA – When Tim Barnes played offensive line for (Pettis County) Northwest High School in Hughesville, coach Caleb Crooker knew Barnes was a standout player.
Barnes, a junior starting center for the Missouri Tigers, offered valuable protection for the Northwest offense. But Crooker also appreciated the perspective that Barnes kept.
"We're a small program. He was a real big kid," Crooker said. "You know at practice he couldn't go full speed, he'd hurt people. So that right there tells a lot about Tim. He didn't go out and look to bully people up at practice or anything.
"He took it easy on them. That shows a little bit about his character right there," he said.
Barnes developed a relationship early with the Missouri coaching staff.
"His father took him down to the camps at MU when he was a freshman, and I think they really started looking at him then, as a freshman even," Crooker said. "I think they paid attention to him when he was 14."
Even though Barnes wasn't a particularly loud player, Crooker recognized areas where Barnes motivated his teammates.
"His junior year, in the summertime, he was always at the weight room," Crooker recalled. "He was a leader there about getting other kids to show up. We had I'd say about 90% attendance that year in the weight room and I think Tim Barnes was a big factor.
"It paid off for him and the team that year," he said. "We were 8-2 and won the conference."
As a college freshman, Barnes was named to the All-Academic Big 12 Second Team. Crooker calls Barnes a smart player, and that extended beyond strictly schoolwork or sports when he coached him.
"Just a sharp kid," he said. "He graduated high school and upper 3s was his grade point average, but he's football smart and he's classroom smart and he's street smart. The kid can talk to anybody."
Changes have come in the few years since Barnes left high school. The Northwest program merged with La Monte High School to continue playing 11-man football. Crooker, who still coaches there, speaks as though he'd like to see players with not only Barnes' football ability but also his leadership.
"The kid would do anything you asked him to do," Crooker said. "Really coachable."