Mike Riley is head football coach at Oregon State. He is also a longtime friend of John Barnes, dating back to Riley's time as an assitant coach at Southern Cal. When Riley coached with the Trojans he lived in Seal Beach, one of the two cities served by Los Alamitos High School.
Coaches all over the nation came calling on John Barnes over the past year or so as they recruited the coach's quarterback. And that quarterback was also the coach's son, Jimmy Barnes. Riley was one of those coaches recruiting Jimmy Barnes.
Riley, who was a defensive back at Bama in the 1970s, and who has gone on to be a head coach in the Canadian Football League and the National Football League in addition to college, probably turned down a chance to be head coach at Alabama. But he didn't want Jimmy Barnes to miss the opportunity to be a Crimson Tider.
Coach Barnes said, "When Mike came in, I told him Alabama had offered Jimmy a scholarship. I knew Mike had gone to Alabama and I told him I wanted to know about Alabama. He said, ‘He's got to go there.' Mike told me he was at Alabama for four years and didn't play, but it had been the best four years of his life."
All of Coach Barnes' quarterbacks have earned scholarships, proof of his ability to develop signal callers. In that time he has had only four who were two-year starters. The fourth is his son, Jimmy.
Jimmy will be playing quarterback for the West team Saturday in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The game, sponsored by Scout.com, will be nationally telecast by NBC. John Barnes is head coach of the West team.
Jimmy, 6-5, 225, completed 143 of 205 pass attempts for 1,956 yards and 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also has a 3.5 grade point average.
"We went to Alabama last summer when they were having their camp," said Coach Barnes. "Coach Rader (Tide Quarterbacks Coach David Rader) said that Jimmy didn't have to take part in it, that he already had a scholarship offer. It cost $30, but we decided to put Jimmy in the camp. And he was the best quarterback."
Barnes is not expected to report to Alabama until mid-July. Orange County, California, schools do not end until late June, and then father and son Barnes have an opportunity to be together in one final game on July 14. Coach Barnes, the most successful high school coach in the history of Orange County, has been invited to coach and Jimmy has been invited to play in the annual Orange County All-Star Game.
The coach and father has had other children leave home for college, so he knows the situation. Jimmy's older brother played football at Las Vegas. "We know when they leave, they are gone," said Coach Barnes. "We don't expect them back until they have degrees."
He said acquaintences have questioned Jimmy going so far from home. "But when they get on a plane, it doesn't matter if it's two hours or four hours," the coach said. "Alabama is a great opportunity, too good to pass up."
Coach Barnes said he had a feeling that Alabama would offer when Rader made arrangements for Jimmy to talk to Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Shula.
Jimmy said he was excited when Shula offered the scholarship. "I had been to Alabama and really liked it a lot," he said.
Jimmy Barnes, who did not play football prior to starting high school, has enjoyed his role in preparation for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "You have to get used to everyone being a good player," he said. "You have good players rushing you. And when you make the pass, you have good defensive backs breaking on it."