By Brett Barnes
On this, the 100th season of football in Ohio State history, a junior from nearby Clayton Northmont leads the “Silver Bullet” defense under new head coach Urban Meyer. His name is CJ Barnett. Coming off a season-ending knee injury in 2010, Barnett led Ohio State in tackles in 2011 with 75. This was the first time in nine consecutive years that a linebacker did not lead the OSU defense in that category. Lance Schneider, Barnett’s former coach at Northmont High School, commented on why Barnett continues to have so much success at safety. “CJ is a very gifted athlete with two strong attributes: One, he is blessed with very long arms for a defensive back, which gives him an advantage over others. The other is his intelligence. CJ understands the game, and how important mental preparation is in order to compete at a high level.”
In 2012, Barnett has already been named an Ohio State Preseason Award Candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award. The 6’1” 202 pound junior safety has followed his friend and mentor, former Buckeye Kirk Coleman (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), and become a hard hitting, tough nosed safety that Ohio State fans have come to expect from Buckeye football. Obviously, the NFL is a goal. “CJ does have aspirations of playing at the professional level, and from all indications, he will have that opportunity once his career at OSU is complete,” Schneider continued.
On this Saturday in September, the OSU faced a foe from the Pac 10, the California Golden Bears. The day was a special day at Ohio State for a number of reasons. It was Hall of Fame Saturday, and twelve former great athletes were inducted today, including one of Barnett’s current coaches, Mike Vrabel.
Also, the very first national championship team was honored on its 70th anniversary. The 1942 Buckeyes were the first of seven national championships in Ohio State football history. It is well-documented that this year’s edition of the Buckeyes will not have that opportunity, but it does not deter Barnett from competing at the highest. On this Saturday afternoon, Barnett broke up a pass and registered ten tackles (one short of his career high against Michigan in 2011).
Most importantly, it does not deter Barnett from being a leader. “CJ is not only a vocal leader, but a tremendous leader by example, as well,” Coach Schneider continued. “You will notice Urban Meyer referring to CJ often, when interviewed. The reason is CJ’s work ethic and his natural ability to lead others.”