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Trib: Bulls' Barrington ready to make mark


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Bulls' Barrington ready to make mark

By MARTIN FENNELLY | The Tampa Tribune

Sam Barrington, South Florida's next starting middle linebacker, is not ordinary. On spring break, while other college kids romped in Cancun and Panama City, he went to: Ghana. That's in West Africa, kids.

"It was real, nothing but real," Barrington said.

Now the sophomore from Jacksonville is back at work, hotly pursuing a business administration degree. And then there's his football game, which will be only slightly displayed in tonight's spring game, the first under new USF coach Skip Holtz. Barrington missed a week of spring practice with a shoulder injury, and as such is slightly behind the learning curve for the new Bulls defense.

But he'll be needed this fall. He has big shoes to fill. So do a lot of guys on the South Florida defense. As many as five former Bulls defenders might go in next week's NFL draft. Barrington will take over for Kion Wilson, USF's leading tackler last season.

"We're replacing great people," Barrington said. "But there aren't a lot of guys on this defense who are afraid to step up."

Former USF coach Jim Leavitt once said Barrington might become the best linebacker to play at USF, which is saying something. He's 6-1, quick and all 220 of his pounds mean business.

"He's an intelligent player, but he's very young and has a lot to learn," USF defensive coordinator Mark Synder said. "He's got a long way to go. He's just a baby."

Barrington had 41 tackles as a freshman, including seven in his only start, when he filled in for the injured Wilson.

"I learned a lot from Kion," Barrington said. "I learned about work ethic, football smarts, about how to carry yourself on and off the field. You always learn from the guys before you."

And Sam Barrington is way into learning. Being one of eight children taught him right from the start.

"You learn to love and care for others," he said. "I wasn't spoiled. You don't build your life on wants, you build your life on needs. That's how you get to where you want to be in life."

That's part of what sent Barrington packing for the Republic of Ghana on spring break. He had to get permission from Holtz for the eight-day trip. Ghana sits on the Gulf of Guinea on Africa's Atlantic coast.

"It's not your normal spring break," Barrington said.

His father, who is also named Sam, lives in Ghana and owns a company that constructs cranes. Barrington's dad and mom split up years ago, but the father and the oldest son have reconnected.

"I went there to learn about his business," Barrington said. "It was basically a family internship. ... Being the oldest son, I'm expected to take it over. I want to get a great education, and if I can play football at the next level and reap the benefits, that would be great, but you have to be ready for life after football."

Barrington took much more than that from his journey.

"There are some very beautiful things going on over there, beautiful people."

Ghana is more politically and economically stable than most countries in West Africa. English is the official language, but there are dozens of other dialects, and Barrington is learning a few. He tells you about his best day: riding out to an island off Ghana's coast. Only 200 people lived there, and each day they'd gather at water's edge.

"They pull in a huge fishing net as big as a football field," Barrington said. "I helped them. Everyone pulled. There were lobsters and marlin and flounder. That's what they ate. It was pretty simple."

He'd like to start a non-profit foundation to help people in Ghana, in his dad's hometown or on that island.

"School supplies, clothing, anything," Barrington said.

Skip Holtz was asked about Barrington's leadership potential. He pointed back to spring break.

"I think it speaks volumes about his character, what the young man is trying to do," Holtz said.

"It was amazing," Barrington said. "I can't wait to go back. I wish they had a football team."

Sam Barrington smiled. He already has a football team, one that has lost star power on defense. Everyone needs to pull.

"That's what teams do," he said.

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