When I was at Bama in the early 1990s, Jay Barker was The Man. He was the ultimate BMOC, the cool-under-pressure QB who led us to the 1992 national title. So when I was offered the opportunity for an interview with the 1994 Heisman finalist, I jumped at the chance.
Barker is teamed up with Allstate and doing press junkets to promote the Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup between the Crimson Tide and Oklahoma.
It was a nice and breezy conversation, just a couple of Alabama fans talking football. After all, when I told him I was a 1994 graduate who was there when he was QB, he said, “Oh, so you’re a young guy.” Yup, just a couple of us young Capstoners shooting the breeze.
On the title game
I asked Barker his advice to Bama fans on whether or not to root for Auburn in the BCS title game. His advice is simple: “ I tell everyone I’m rooting for the state. The one Jameis Winston is from.”
On the Iron Bowl
Barker said the loss of the Iron Bowl stings. Badly. But in some ways, it can serve to reheat a rivalry that may have started to cool.
“I felt like the LSU game was gaining more momentum and the Auburn game was losing momentum,” he said. Methinks that momentum has returned.
On the end of the Iron Bowl
Barker had the same reaction as most Bama fans. What are you gonna do?
“What an unbelievable play. The actual play against Alabama was just great execution. They just had all the angles. That’s tough to swallow from an Alabama fan’s perspective.”
On the best announcers
I asked Barker what national TV commentators he would most like to see. His dream pairing?
“Keith Jackson and Ron Franklin, but I think they’d probably step all over each over.” But his go-to choice for SEC coverage may surprise – and maybe even anger – some Bama fans. Yup, it’s Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, the announcers that make plenty of Bama faithful fill their Facebook feeds with loathing.
Barker said he’s a big Danielson fan, and that Lundquist has been a loyal and frequent guest on his radio show. He said because the duo cover SEC games every week, it’s easier to nitpick when a mistake is made or a wrong name is called.
“It frustrates a lot of the SEC fans just because they’re the ones doing it week and week out,” he said. Of course, he said, given his druthers, he’d take the hometown radio combo of Eli Gold and Phil Savage. For what it’s worth, I feel strongly that the person who develops a program or app that can sync local sports radio broadcasts to a TV feed will be a quadrillionaire.
If Twitter were around in 1992
I asked Barker who on the 1992 squad would have been the must-follow Twitter feed. Barker said that had Twitter been around in 1992, Prince Wembley would have been the choice.
“Prince would have just been telling teams off. He was always the one that kept practices spirited.” Barker said Wembley was a Miami product from the late 80s, early 90s Hurricanes era, and he brought that spunk and fire to the Capstone.
“He’ll speak his mind. I couldn’t imagine him having a Twitter account back then.” Wonder what he would have Tweeted after Curry jerked a knot in his face mask during the Sugar Bowl.
On AJ McCarron’s pro potential
AJ McCarron joins the long list of great Bama QBs who will head to the pros. But not since Richard Todd has a former Tide player been a tenured starting quarterback.
While there have been myriad systems at Alabama since Todd, Barker said Tide QBs over the years have not grown up in the “sling it” systems. That said, he likens McCarron to his current favorite pro quarterback, Tom Brady. And Brady, he said, reminds him of his childhood idol, Joe Montana.
“I think he’s as prepared as any other quarterback going into the NFL.” And what common factor does McCarron share with Brady and Montana?
“When you’ve gotta make the throw they can make it,” Barker said. Speaking on making a throw when you need to – Barker said that had Alabama won the Iron Bowl, McCarron’s 99-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper would have changed the college football landscape.
“That’s probably his Heisman moment.” And while there are plenty of metrics measured in the combines or stats from his college career, Barker said McCarron shines in the one immeasurable: “How do you lead, how do you perform under pressure?”
On the 1993 tie with Tennessee
Without prefacing my own reasons for the game being special, I asked Barker his memories of the 1993 Legion Field 17-17 tie with UT. He said the crowd was electric when he went over the line for the touchdown near the end of the game, and nuclear when David Palmer tied it up.
“It felt like a win because the fans went absolutely crazy.” I told him that that game was the first date for my wife and me, some 20 years ago. (We’ve been married for 15 years.) Barker asked me, “That was your first date with her?” To which I replied, yep, and thanks for making it easy for me to remember that.
On young gunslingers
My final question for Barker came from my 10-year-old son, Parker. My son’s primary shirt of choice is a McCarron jersey. I explained to my son that Jay Barker was AJ McCarron when Mommy and Daddy were in college. His question for Barker: “How can I be a better quarterback?”
The father and stepfather of seven kids didn’t miss a beat:
“Go out there with confidence. It’s not arrogance. But when you take the field, know that you’re the best out there.” And if you’re a 10-year-old QB playing flag football, as my son is, remember these two keys: “Just sling it. And have a positive attitude.”