Miller LB T.T. Barber, front row, left, and teammate Adrian Hayes, right, both signed Wednesday at the school. They were joined by the Pirates’ coaching staff. Barber signed with Middle Tennessee, while Hayes is headed to Reinhardt. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
COLQUITT — This is a story about loyalty, about honesty and integrity — about a football player who looked deep inside and felt he had to be true to himself.
That’s what happened Wednesday morning at Miller County High, where T.T. Barber, one of the top Class A linebackers in Georgia, signed his national letter-of-intent to accept a football scholarship from Middle Tennessee State.
Barber, who played quarterback, running back, receiver and linebacker at Miller County, had a monster season and an even better postseason.
Barber made 82 tackles, including 11 for losses and six sacks, forced four fumbles and recovered three fumbles as a linebacker during the regular season. He was named to the GACA All-State team this week. He was a Herald Dynamite Dozen player and a two-time All-Area player. His stats and his fearless play drew attention from a long list of smaller schools.
But it wasn’t until Barber was named the MVP of the Georgia North-South All-Star Game in Columbus that bigger schools took notice. And when he was named the MVP of the Georgia-Florida Border Wars All-Star Game two weeks later in Tallahassee, Fla., the big boys started knocking down his door.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina State both rushed Barber after the all-star games, and Barber listened and talked to both schools.
But then he still chose Middle Tennessee State. He felt it was a matter of loyalty.
“Middle Tennessee was on me from the jump,’’ Barber said Wednesday morning moments after signing. “They kept it honest with me. I kept it honest with them. I felt like they respected me, and they didn’t give up on me even when I told them the bigger schools were recruiting me. They stood with me. They really wanted me. I’m a Raider.’’
Barber said he had no regrets and added the path to the NFL can come from Middle Tennessee State, and he flat-out loved the campus.
“I didn’t even feel like I was in Tennessee,’’ Barber said. “I just felt at home.’’
Barber wasn’t shocked by the late interest from Georgia Tech, butt he was a little surprised N.C. State joined the party.
“I won the MVP award at both games, so I knew there would be interest, but I was a little surprised about North Carolina State. I didn’t feel they were straight with me. They talked about me making a visit but never called back.’’
Miller County coach Frank Killingsworth calls Barber “the Mercedes Benz of linebackers.’’
“They are getting a steal,’’ Killingsworth said. “I think he will do real well there. He will have the ability to shine there, and he will get an education. He is a great student and the Mercedes Benz of linebackers. I don’t know if they know what they’ve got, but they will find out.’’
Barber has a 3.6 GPA and is planning on majoring in pre-med.
“I want to be a doctor,’’ Barber said. “And I know I can make it to the NFL. It’s up to me to work hard and get there. It’s been a dream of mine since my ninth-grade year, but I want all of it — an education and football.’’
MILLER SAFETY ADRIAN HAYES SIGNS WITH REINHARDT UNIVERSITY: Barber was joined at the signing table Wednesday in the Miller County gym by safety Adrian Hayes, who signed with Reinhardt University in northern Georgia.
“Adrian has been my steady safety for two years,’’ Killingsworth said. “He’s been our leading tackler in the secondary for two years and he had six interceptions.”
Hayes has a 3.9 GPA, and like Barber, plans to major in pre-med. He also had offers from LaGrange and Point College.
“Once I made the visit to Reinhardt that was it,’’ Hayes said. “They made me feel like it was my home. It’s not a big school. The classes are small, and they will know your name in every class.’’