By Charles Hallman
With their professional lives currently on hold due to their employers locking them out, brothers and NFL players Marion Barber III and Dominique Barber instead occupied their time recently not on the picket line but outside in the hot sun working with local kids.
Around 160 elementary school-age kids and another 100 or so older ones participated in the 2011 fourth annual Barber Foundation Football Camp at North High School’s football field June 17-18.
“I’m all about the kids,” said Marion III during a break. “The lockout talk is not my talk. I’m all about today, the now, and what’s going on [here].”
It’s been just over a month since a tornado stormed through parts of the North Side. The two-day camp therefore served as a welcome diversion for many of the youngsters adversely affected by the storm.
“I’m just glad we could do it [this year],” Marion III pointed out.
Each participant took part in drills, 7-on-7 flag football games, and listened and learned from former kids, now adults, who looked just like themselves. They also got free stuff such as athletic bags. More importantly, the cost for each camp participant was just their time.
“The important thing is that they come out here and don’t have to worry about anything,” added Marion III’s brother Dominique. “For my brother and I, Thomas [Tapah] and all the players we have out here, it is something we love to do — to give back.”
“Giving them our time is priceless,” agreed Tapah, a Gopher teammate of Marion III.
“This was something they talked about when they were growing up,” said the elder Barber, father of Marion III and Dominique. “It’s an opportunity for them to give back, which at times gets overplayed. Their hearts are in the right place.”
Karen Barber says her two sons once proposed to do something for the Northside kids when the opportunity presents itself even though they grew up in a Twin Cities suburb. “Let’s do something to help kids over North,” she recalled them saying.
It’s not unusual to see some professional athletes who host youth camps in their respective sports and use them as self-promotional opportunities to falsely show that they care about others less fortunate. Others, however, such as the brothers Barber, not only give back, but also do it in places not their hometowns.
Like their father, both Barber young men also left a lasting imprint in the University of Minnesota’s football records book. Marion (1978, 1980) and son Marion III (2003) both made All-Big Ten first teams and are among the school’s all-time rushers, Marion III fourth and his father sixth. Dominique was the team’s best defensive player in 2007.
Marion Barber later played nine pro seasons for the New York Jets during the 1980s; Marion III has been in Dallas since 2005, and Dominique has been with Houston since 2008.
“My son loves it,” Rev. Darryl Spence said of the Barber camp. “He gets to rub shoulders with guys who came through these same streets and made it. To see young Black men who aren’t in trouble and don’t know trouble but are showing our kids a better way, we [as parents] are happy to see this happening.”
On the foundation that carries their family surname, Marion Barber explained, “My wife and I got it going. I couldn’t wait for the day when they [his sons] would take it over. That’s the way it’s supposed to be: We introduced it, and they took the ball and ran with it,” the father said proudly.
“It’s special,” said father Marion about his sons’ philanthropic efforts. “They’re in it for the right reasons.”
The two brothers already are planning for 2012: “It is going to be every year in the third weekend of June,” said Marion III, “as long as the Lord allows us to. You can’t miss the date, so lock it in.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.