San Diego Charger Antwan Barnes: “We were all there for one purpose and that was to make a name for FIU.”

Florida International, also known as FIU, played football for the first time officially on August 29, 2002.  After three seasons, they moved up to Division I (FBS) and now in just their 10th year of existence, they are about to make their second straight bowl game appearance.  FIU will face Marshall in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.  To learn a little bit more about this young program, we spoke to their first-ever NFL Draft pick, Antwan Barnes, the Outside Linebacker who is currently playing for the San Diego Chargers.  He also happents to be the highest draft pick ever selected out of Florida International.

The CFB Girl:  To go to two bowl games in a row is quite impressive for such a new program.  In 2003, when you began at FIU, in just the second year of the program, what did you expect from this team?

Barnes:  I knew eventually something was going to happen with the program.  We just needed the right talent for that school and the recruits.

The CFB Girl: T. Y. Hilton’s success on the field has been well documented—why do you think he has done so well?

Barnes:  It’s a team thing.  It takes the offensive linemen to be able to block so that the quarterback can get the ball to T.Y.  And I personally think it’s a whole team effort with the offense and how they have involved T. Y. throughout the years and these two seasons.

The CFB Girl:  You are the highest draft pick to have come out of FIU.  Do you feel somewhat of an extra burden when you’re on the field to do a good job of representing your school?

Barnes:  Most definitely.  When people hear the name FIU, you’ll hear “Who? What school is that? Where is that school located?” That’s part of why I do it, when I do make plays, to have that announcer say, he’s from “Florida International”—just to get the name out, just so they can know that people from that school can make it.

The CFB Girl:  The pride for one’s school in college football is one of the things I really love about the game.  How does this compare to playing in the NFL?

Barnes:  The major difference is the business part of the NFL.  The NFL turns into a job—something that you have to keep.   Because you have younger guys coming in every year trying to play your position, so it turns into a job that where you gotta try to keep it.  Whereas in college, you can play just for that name that’s on your helmet and your classmates.

The CFB Girl:  What do you do to stay on top of your game and maintain your edge against newcomers?

Barnes:  First, it’s mentally just getting prepared for the season and getting prepared for what is going to come…how you are mentally as far as getting to know the plays. The second is just keeping your body up.  Your body is your temple and your body is what NFL coaches are really worried about—how you keep it up, how you’re in shape.

The CFB Girl:  Do you study a lot?

Barnes:  Oh, you’re constantly studying.  Not mainly on plays you have to run, but mainly on the opponent that you have to go against.  In the beginning part of your rookie year, the most studying that you’re doing is learning the playbook.  But once you get that over with, the main thing every week is getting to know your opponent.

The CFB Girl:  As an outside linebacker, what are you focusing on when you get to know your opponent?

Barnes:  For our position it’s mainly to get after the quarterback.  I’m basically focused on the offensive linemen I’m going against and looking at basic plays and formations and seeing what he does because I have to get through him to get to the quarterback.

The CFB Girl:  What is the personality of Outside Linebacker as compared to Inside Linebacker?

Barnes:  I think all linebackers are basically the same, but the inside guys have more to worry about than the outside guys.  The middle, that’s the inside guy, he’s the most important out of all the linebackers because he is the one that tells us the play, gets us lined up and then he has his job of what he has to do on the field.  For the outside linebacker, it’s just about getting after the quarterback.

The CFB Girl:  What skills does it take to play OLB?

Barnes:  You gotta be fast.  You gotta be quick with your hands.  You gotta have that instinct to know what to do.

The CFB Girl:  Quick hands, good hands…all of this talk about hands, but what does that really mean?

Barnes:  You probably hear that about receivers having good hands to catch the ball.  With outside linebackers, you gotta have good hands because we’re going against offensive linemen..  He’s protecting his quarterback so he’s putting his hands at us.  So it’s being fast in knocking his hands down.

The CFB Girl:  Not to talk about the same thing that everyone else is talking about, but what do you think of Tim Tebow?

Barnes:  He’s a good quarterback.  The person who he is, is what makes him a good player.

The CFB Girl:  Why is it so hard to play defense against him?

Barnes:  Part of it is that they’re not used to it in the NFL and people don’t really prepare.  It’s probably the last thing on their mind that coaches prepare for, because we’re used to a different offense.  And he’s bringing it back to a college offense that most people have forgotten about. The college option.  That’s all it is.

The CFB Girl:  What are you looking forward to in watching the FIU bowl game against Marshall?

Barnes:  Just seeing the guys go out there and play and putting their name on the map, putting the school on the map.  If they come back and win bowl games back-to-back, they’re going to have people really looking at them.

The CFB Girl:  What did you like the most about your experience at FIU great?

Barnes:  The group of guys I was around—my teammates  there.  It became a brotherhood after a while.  We all bonded together.  We were all there for one purpose and that was to make a name for FIU.

The CFB Girl:  With just three players drafted in the history of your program, for the most part, almost none of your teammates are playing football professionally.  What are your friends doing now?

Barnes:  A bunch of them are working great jobs.  And if I wasn’t able to play football, I could work like those guys.  They went to school to play football, but they also got an education and now they’ve got good jobs.

(I think Antwan Barnes and his friends are an example of what college football is all about.  Pride for your school and getting the tools for a future career.)

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