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Where are they now?: Marion Barber

05/16/2004, 12:00am CDT
By Rob Litt

Where Are They Now?

Some athletes have an impact on a program during the four years they are in college. Other's leave a lasting impression on fans from a performance in one particular game or even over a career. But for former Gopher running back, Marion Barber, the legacy he left on the Gopher program is having a major impact on the current team and should continue over the next few years.

The name "Barber" was a household name in the late 1970s and early 80s and it's a common name in the endzone again as his oldest son, Marion Barber III, is one half of the most prolific running attacks in the nation, and his middle son, Dominique, signed to play for the Gophers and will be a freshman defensive back this fall.

The elder Marion Barber is heralded as one of the greatest running backs in Gopher history and his assault on the record books is statistical data to back it up. A two-time All Big Ten running back, Barber was the first Gopher ever to rush for more than 3,000 career yards and was the programs all-time leading rusher until Darrell Thompson passed him in 1989. Barber is one of the programs all-time leaders in every major rushing category.

In addition to his explosive style, Barber's impact on the program was evident early on as he scored the Gophers only touchdown in the 1977 Hall of Fame Bowl versus Maryland.

Following his successful four-year career at The U, Barber was drafted by the New York Jets in the second round where he went on to have a nine-year professional career all with the Jets. During his time in the NFL, Barber amassed a career 4.3 yards/carry average.

Following his professional football career, Barber returned to the Twin Cities with his wife and family where he works in private business. And while Marion Barber II's playing days are long over, the Barber name lives on in Dinkytown and the proud former Gopher sits in the stands and not only cheers on his alma mater, but cheers on a couple of Barbers.

Recently the former Gopher spent time with talking about his emotions watching his two sons follow his footsteps, his memories of knocking off #1 rated Michigan 1977, and his memories of the late Cal Stoll. Where has your post Gopher career taken you?

Marion Barber: After my time at The U, I was drafted by the New York Jets where I spent nine years. It's rare in today's game to play an entire career in one city and I was fortunate to be able to do that. Once I retired from the NFL my wife and I returned with our two sons back home to the Twin Cities where we knew we'd always want to return to. It was funny, after we told the boys that I was retiring from the NFL, Marion said to me "Does this mean we can be Vikings fans now?" We knew right then that Minnesota would be our home for the rest of our lives. Are there any games as a Gopher that stick out more than others?

Barber:There are definitely a few games that I can vividly remember. First and foremost was the 16-0 win over #1 rated Michigan. To be able to win the Little Brown Jug and to beat the #1 team in the nation was incredible. We also beat Washington and UCLA that year as well as Wisconsin. It was a great year. The Hall of Fame Bowl game was very special. That was the first bowl game in a number of years for the program and to score a touchdown was great. How did you like playing for Coach Cal Stoll?

Barber: Coach Stoll was a great man. He was a mentor, a great motivator, coach and friend. We remained close until his passing. I was a Paul Bearer at his funeral and I am forever grateful to the time I spent with him and the lessons he taught me on and off the field. What former players do you still keep in touch with?

Barber: I keep in contact with quite a few of the guys. I talk often with Chester Cooper, Dana Noel and Anthony Davis. Coach Mason has done a great job of getting the alumni involved with the program again. He has an open door policy where former players can come to practice and talk with the team and many guys have taken advantage of this. How would you compare your running style to your son, Marion Barber III?

Barber: I try to stay away from comparisons more so because I don't want additional pressure on my sons. That being said, it's hard to compare us as its two entirely different eras of football. Marion's knowledge of the game is far greater than mine ever was and that may be a big differentiated between our styles. Also, Marion is never satisfied. He's always working on finding little ways to improve his game or conditioning. What would it mean to you to have your son bypass you in the Gopher record books?

Barber: It would be a complete honor. Back in the late 1980s when Darrell Thompson broke all of my rushing records Marion was a little kid and he said to me "Daddy, don't worry, one day I'll make sure that a Barber is back atop that list." I was blown away that he said that and while I did not take it seriously, its been incredible watching him develop through the years to the point where if he stays healthy he could prove these comments from 15 years ago true. It would be a beautiful thing. What does it mean to you to have both Marion and Dom follow in your footsteps?

Barber: It's sometimes difficult to put into words how special it is. I take great pride in knowing that they will have an incredible college experience. They get to play for a great program, for a great coach and will get an outstanding education. They grew up as Gopher fans and both always wanted to play for The U so I am very proud that they will be able to live out this dream. Will Marion watch over Dominique over the next two years?

Barber: It's going to be fun for them to play together and to be on campus together. Marion will make sure that Dom is staying on top of his studies and working hard in practice, but Dom will have to pay his dues like all other freshman do. What are your thoughts about some experts putting Marion on early Heisman Trophy watch lists?

Barber: I can tell you that Marion does not pay attention to that at all. He's worried about helping the team get to the Rose Bowl. Whatever it takes to achieve that goal Marion will do, and individual awards will come at the end of the season. Has the arrival of Laurence Maroney helped push Marion to the next level?

Barber: Oh definitely. They push each other in practice every day. But it's not just those two in the backfield. There are some very talented young runners as well that will keep these guys working harder and harder. Coach Mason and the staff have done an incredible job of creating healthy competition and creating an environment of mentorship. Thomas Tapeh was a great mentor to Marion and now Marion is returning that to Laurence.

Talk about Marion Barber on the Gopher Football message board.

Tag(s): Where Are They Now?