Faces in KS: Alex Barnes

Alex Barnes of Pittsburg is one of the best players in KS '15. (Chet Kuplen, David Jackson)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 28, 2014

Share This Story:

Big, fast and strong are all terms that are used a lot in football. Pittsburg High senior football player, Alex Barnes, is all three of those. Barnes, a four year starter for the Purple Dragons, is one of the biggest football prospects in Kansas for the class of 2015. Barnes may be the best running back in all of Kansas for the 2014 season.

How Big? Barnes stands 6-foot and weighs 218 pounds from his running back and safety position. How Fast? Barnes has ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.40-4.48 range at several camps over the last two summers. How Strong? This might be the most impressive of his ability, he bench presses 385 pounds on a one rep max. He recently benched 225 pounds 31 times, which equals 434.25 pounds on a bench rep max calculator. The NFL combine record for a running back is 38, this kid is in high school! Barnes also squats 520 pounds and cleans 320. Add all those with his vertical leap of 37 inches, making him one of if not the most explosive players in all of Kansas.

“I have spent a lot of time in the off season to get better in the weight room, hopefully it will pay off on the field this season,” Barnes said.

His performances in the weight room and on the field have caught the attention of division one college coaches, although Barnes may be one of the most underrated prospects in Kansas. He has five official offers on the table including Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Tulsa and Rutgers. He is rated as the ninth best prospect in Kansas by Rivals for the class of 2015. Barnes was a first team All-Underclassmen from Sports in Kansas and a first team All-5A selection from Kpreps last season. Some schools like him at defensive back, while some like him at running back. Expect more coaches to pull the trigger once the season starts.

“The recruiting process has been fun. I have gotten to visit a lot of cool places and I plan on making my decision during this season,” Barnes said.

Barnes has high hopes for the Dragons this season, who have failed to make the 5A playoffs in all three of his years as a starter. The Purple Dragons, an SEK league power, are the only 5A team in their league. They have seemed to have great success in their first six regular season games over the last three years, going 16-2, but have really struggled in their 5A district. They have played in one of, if not the toughest, districts in Kansas. Last year’s district opponent, Blue Valley, won the 5A state title while fellow district member, Blue Valley West, was 5A sub-state runner-up. Blue Valley moves up to 6A this season, and the Dragons are in a district with Aquinas, Blue Valley Southwest, and Blue Valley West. Many think that this is the year that the Dragons get into the playoffs and make some noise.

“We have the athletes to make a run, we have to respond to the challenge we will face in our district.” Barnes said.

Barnes, who rushed for 1,348 and 23 touchdowns a year ago, will be the biggest factor in making sure the Dragons can make a serious playoff run. Barnes is equally as good as a defender as he is on offense, he led the Dragons in tackles as a freshman in high school at the linebacker position. He now plays safety, a switch he made last season on defense, and is arguably one of the hardest hitters in Kansas. Barnes and the Dragons know they have a lot to prove in 2014.

“ I don’t want to be the person that could have been something, I want to reach my full potential. When I am done playing I want to know that I gave it everything I had,” Barnes said.

Pittsburg head coach, Tom Nickelson, is the first to tell how special of a player that Barnes is.

“He works so hard every day, he’s never not played hard for us, he’s an exceptional leader for us,” Nickelson said in an early radio interview with me on ESPN 100.7.

Pittsburg, who finished 6-3 in 2013, will open the season on Friday September 5th against Coffeyville Field Kindley, last year’s 4A state runner-up, in the Kansas Cox Friday Night statewide television game. Last year Barnes exploded onto the statewide scene with 323 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the Cox game against Coffeyville, in which the Dragons won 42-14. The Dragons have three state football titles in playoff era (1983, 1988, 1990), all which came under Kansas coaching legend, Larry Garman. PHS also took runner up four times, twice under Garman (1970, 1987) and twice under Merle Clark (2000, 2001).  The Dragons will be going for their first playoff appearance in seven years (2007), when they last made it in 4A.

Pittsburg High has had several players that ended up in division one football at one point or the other over the last 30 years, including Doug Medford (Wyoming), Kevin Verdugo (Colorado State), Poncho Sales (Wyoming), Jared Smith (Kansas), David Owings (Tennessee), Shad Meier (Kansas State), Ira Horyna (Louisana Tech), Tim Harris (Utah), Aaron Harvey (North Texas), Dylan Meier (Kansas State), Kerry Meier (Kansas). Two of those ended up being drafted in the NFL in brothers, Kerry Meier (Falcons), and Shad Meier (Titans/Saints). Kevin Verdugo, an 1987 PHS grad who was once the head coach at Fort Hays State, also spent two training camps with the Saints. Will Barnes be the next? We caught up with Alex below..

Q&A w/ Alex Barnes

How did you get involved in athletics?

My mother started me off with t-ball when I was 4 years old.

Talk about how last season went for you and your team?

Last season we started off strong with a 6-0 start and by then had surpassed all of the preseason expectations for us as a team.  We finished it off on a disappointing note with a few starters going down with injuries and losing our final three games in districts.

Any goals for you this season?

To lead my team into districts with an undefeated record and to win all of our district games and make a deep playoff run.

What are the teams expectations in 2014?

Same as my individual goals

What will it take to make a run in 5A this season?

We will need to come into districts with energy and enthusiasm.  We have all the athletes that we'll need to make a run, so we just have to respond to the challenge.

What does the SEK league look like this season?

It's looking very competitive at the top as always.  We'll have a lot of tough teams to go against early on

What did you do in the off-season to prepare for 2014?

We're really taking out conditioning seriously this year and we trained every morning for about two hours nearly every day.

You return several key players, talk about some of the key returnees for the Purple Dragons?

Will Mengarelli will be a junior for us and he is one of the best linebackers in the state.  His nose for the football is ridiculous and he's one of the smartest defensive players I have ever met.  Elijah Harris will be a sophomore and he has made a huge leap from his freshman year.  He's a freak athlete and we have really worked on technique and fundamentals with him this summer.  Our whole offensive line is going to be seniors who have had varsity playing experience so that's exciting.

How has the recruiting process been and when do you expect to make a decision?

It's been a lot of fun and I've been able to visit some really amazing programs with awesome facilities.  I expect to make my decision sometime during the season.

What advice would you have to someone a few years younger than you on the best way to expose yourself to college coaches? 

First, you need to get yourself some exposure and attend camps at whatever colleges you're interested in.  You'll want to on their radar early so try to get around to those camps your sophomore and junior years.  And when you're at those camps, be sure you spend time with the position coach and show him your eagerness for the game of football and your willingness to learn the fundamentals on how to play that position.

What do you use as motivation to become a better player?

I don't want to be that person that could have been something.  I want to reach my full potential and when I'm done playing football I want to know that I gave everything that I had to make myself as good as I can be.

Favorite subject in school?

I really like my English and History classes.

Do you play any other sports?

I run track, but I won't be doing that this year since I'm graduating in December.

What is it like to grow up in Pittsburg?

It's a lot more interesting than what you would expect.  Growing up in a small town has been special because the relationships with the people here are more personal and you really get to know the people in the community.

Best opposing player you've faced in high school?

Jamal Logan (Coffeyville Field Kindley LB) by far.  One of the best athletes in the state of Kansas, he's always making plays and his football instincts are out of this world

When you aren't playing sports, what do you do for fun?

I usually don't have too much free time so I like to just relax at home and have some people over to swim

One thing the average person wouldn't know about you? 

That I'm kind of a nerd.  Dragon Ball Z was my life as a child, and I haven't really been able to give that up yet haha.