Former University of Minnesota and NFL star Marion Barber continues to have a strong interest in the Gopher football team. His son Thomas, a redshirt senior this year, is playing at “U” for the third time.
Old Barber was a teaching assistant at Plymouth Armstrong High School. He also teaches driving schools and coaches the 9th grade football team. Along with Thomas, he is the father of Marion Barber III, a former Gopher running back who spent seven seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Dallas Cowboys, and Dominique (Dom) Barber, a former Gopher who NFL.
He recently sat down with our Susie Jones to reflect on his journey to Minnesota, which he has called home for over 40 years.
“I grew up in Detroit,” he said in his high school auditorium. “Almost grew up in a single mom’s home, and my mom remarried. My stepfather finished my senior year of high school.”
The University of Minnesota was his first college. “This was the last time I talked to him,” he said. “I went to the hospital and he told me if I wanted to go there, I should go.”
His mother wanted him to play for Michigan. “She promised to buy me a car if I stayed, but I chose Minnesota,” he said. He came to Minnesota in 1977.
“I played under Cal Stoll for the first two years,” he said. “I’ve been under Smokey Joe Salem for the past two years.” He never thought he would play in the NFL, unlike now. “I think in my junior year, I started getting letters from NFL teams and then agents and lawyers started calling,” he said at the time, with players going to different cities to train for different teams.
“But it’s funny because New York was one of the last teams I went to, and it just so happened that the recruiter was with the Jets at the Japan Bowl where we met and it happened.”
He joined the Jets in 1981.
“I had a severe concussion as a freshman and missed the entire season, and sophomore was strike season. I had two strikes in the NFL, believe it or not.”
He played seven active seasons with the Jets before being fired in 1989.
They hired him almost immediately. After several different career changes, he found himself at Armstrong High School.
“It’s probably one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever done,” he said. He said he was lucky to have three talented and kind sons and a beautiful wife Karen, with whom he has been married for 37 years.
Karen and Dom were the ones who encouraged Marion to return to college for a degree. After four seasons in Houston, Dom returned to Minnesota. “He said, ‘Dad, they have a program to welcome back ex-athletes who haven’t graduated.'”
He said there was no reason not to do it because the program was free.
“It was a warm and pleasant surprise for me when I entered the course I finished. I really enjoyed learning, the professors, and of course the students.” Coincidentally, one of his classmates and his son Thomas dated for two years.
Great to see his three sons playing at the University of Minnesota. “It’s exciting,” he said.
As for advice?
“The most important thing I always say is, athletics is something you know you can do, but I’ve been talking about school and education, you fix that and other things will happen to you. Thomas is at the Golden Gophers now. Football team as linebacker. “It’s been a great experience for him to see how they’ve developed as a team. Of course, this is Flake’s third season, and we’re all looking forward to it. “