The THS Athletic Booster Club is honoring Coach John Barnett at their annual banquet tomorrow night.
Coach Barnett has served on the football coaching staff more years than anyone in the school's history. That says quite a lot for Coach Barnett, even more for the school.
I've known John since we first coached against one another in 1984. I had heard of him even before that. Many of you have known John since his childhood, so you may know more stories about him than I do. I'm the lucky one though; I've got the pen and, hopefully, an audience.
I worked with John for two years. I learned very quickly that he takes coaching and teaching quite seriously. John is an astute student of his opponents and subject matter. His strength is breaking down an opponent's habits until he knows them like the back of his hand. No one will be more prepared to defense a team than John Barnett.
We were playing Washington-Wilkes in 1992 in a tight game. The Tigers called timeout before facing an important fourth down conversion. John suggested to his linebacker Marcus Parker that he should spy the tight end for a possible pass over the middle. Right on cue, and as if John was in their huddle, the Tigers threw this pass, right into Marcus' hands. Game over. Bulldogs win!
That same year against Hephzibah, we threw a slant pass to a sophomore receiver named Tony "Doo Doo" Brown. Tony caught the pass and was off to the races. Seventy yards later, as he was about to score, a defender stripped the ball from Tony and recovered to stop the touchdown.
Knowing John's intensity like I did, I immediately told a fellow assistant to, "get Doo Doo, I'll get Coach Barnett." I knew it would be best that we keep the two apart.
Both my children swear that he must have written the history of the U.S., the constitution and all legislation thereafter. They say that he knows his business like no other. He tackles his job in the classroom with a football attitude.
At a social gathering of mostly schoolteachers we once were sharing teaching stories. John was bemoaning the fact that he just couldn't get some students to follow his discussions.
"A girl called me to her desk and pointed to a textbook picture of the Supreme Court justices," explained John. Her question was, "which one of these fellows is Judge Stevens?" She was referring to then Superior Court Judge Robert Stevens.
This part of the story was hilarious enough but John, being the real teacher he is, screamed in sheer agony, "we weren't even on that chapter!" The irrelevant question didn't bug him as much as the fact that the young lady was not paying attention to his lesson.
John's love of history started early. Before he discovered a ball, I understand that John fancied himself to be Davy Crockett. His holster and toy pistols were a part of his pajamas. He would not go to sleep without them.
Once he learned about football, he gave it all he had. He tells stories of blocking for Eddie Lee Ivery in high school. Eddie Lee must have lost a ton of yards because of John's missed blocks, holds and clips -- things he now despises.
As a guest on the Two Old Dogs radio show my chosen trivia question was what was John's jersey number. Jerry, Ralph, nor I really knew and neither did the first few callers. We finally said if a caller was within three they win the t-shirt. We didn't know if the winner was within three or not. We still don't know his number, although a secret admirer claimed he was number 72.
I could go on and on with John Barnett stories. Come on to the banquet, and we'll hold court afterwards.
I've already told him the best thing about his being honored is being able to give him heck about it. His quick, unamused response was, "I can tell you're really enjoying it too."