Last week we talked about national signing day and the excitement it can mean for the young man about to continue his football journey. However the exhilaration isn’t just contained to the student, his family and friends. It’s a time for all members of a community, whatever their connection. That’s one of the reasons that Chargers linebacker Antwan Barnes returned to his high school Alma mater, Norland High School in Miami:
Norland’s National Signing Day ceremony had a special guest star.
Barnes was a member of the 2002 Norland state championship team — the first in the school’s history.
Barnes offered some advice to the five players signing Wednesday.
“Whatever you do pledge devotion to everything you do and just have fun,” Barnes told the players.
Yet Barnes wasn’t just there for guidance to Norland seniors. He was there as his high school retired his jersey.
Barnes, along with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, was part of the first state championship team in school history. The team beat an Orlando-area high school on a last second touchdown to win the state’s 6A title.
Afterwards, despite interest from Florida State and Rutgers, The future Chargers linebacker would head to Florida International to play collegiality. After his time with the Panthers Barnes would become the first FIU player to be drafted when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in 4th round of the 2007 draft.
When asked by The Prowl, FIU’s sports blog, whether he was surprised about Norland retiring his jersey, Barnes said:
“The school had talked to me before about retiring the jersey. I was truly honored that they did that. The school showed me appreciation and anything they need I’m there for them. Last year, I bought the football team new uniforms and cleats.”
Regardless of the success that he’s had since high school, Barnes clearly still has a soft spot in his heart for Norland and his high school days. It’s one of the reasons players come back to talk to high schools and take pride when their fellow alumni get in front of cameras during national signing day. In fact in a Miami Herald article about the championship game, Barnes said:
“I can go win a Super Bowl ring and make it to Pro Bowls, but I’ll always think back to that game when we won our first state, those guys I was around, the bond we had.”
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