Barnes hits goal to play NCAA football

Gilroy High senior Joe Barnes will play football at The Redlands University. Photo by Robert Eliason.

When Joe Barnes received a direct message via Twitter from someone claiming to be an assistant football coach from the Redlands University, he did a double take and had an initial thought that was one of his friends might be playing a prank on him. 

“I wasn’t really sure what to think (since I had never talked to anyone from there),” the Gilroy High senior said. “I thought it was a joke at first, but then I checked out his profile and found out it was legit.”

Turns out the person who was direct messaging Barnes was none other than Aaron De La Rosa, who is the defensive back coach and video coordinator of the Redlands football program. From there, the two kept in contact until Barnes received another huge surprise—an offer in the mail about a month ago to play football for the Division III program. 

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Barnes said. “It was definitely a big surprise.”

And a welcome one. Once Barnes and his parents looked over the numbers—Redlands is a private college, after all, with a high tuition rate—they were satisfied. It was official: Barnes would realize his dream of playing football at the four-year level. 

“It’s something that has been a goal of mine for a long time,” said Barnes, who had a ceremonial signing event at the school last Thursday. “Ever since I was a little kid—6 years old—my parents have been preparing me for this moment. They’re a big reason why I’ve gotten to this point.”

Barnes was a two-sport standout at Gilroy High in football and wrestling. It was the latter sport where Barnes will go down as one of the most accomplished wrestlers at the school in recent memory, with four Central Coast Section championships to his credit and placing twice at the CIF State Tournament. The 2018-2019 wrestling season might have been his most impressive yet, considering Barnes was never quite 100 percent after he suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his left knee early in the football season. 

However, Barnes persevered and grinded out wins on the mat at his typical prolific rate, and he dominated his league and section competition. After wrestling in the 160 pound division, Barnes has spent the last couple of months bulking up in preparation for college football. Barnes’ junior season on the gridiron was his absolute best, as he rushed for 1,807 yards and 23 touchdowns while adding three more TDs receiving in leading the Mustangs to the first-ever CCS playoff title in program history. 

Despite a gaudy resume, Barnes didn’t receive much attention from four-year programs. However, De La Rosa saw some of Barnes’ highlight videos that were linked to Barnes’ Twitter account, and liked what he saw. 

“He said I was a hard runner and I stayed low,” Barnes said. “And that I knew how to read and hit my holes.”

Barnes credits his parents, Joseph and Jennifer, for always pushing him and making sacrifices along the way. 

“They helped me believe I could do it,” he said. “They drove me around and made money so we would be able to travel (to wrestling tournaments across the country). Ever since I was little, it’s been my dream to play college football or wrestle. I fell in love with football a little more.”

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