BOWL COVERAGE: Barnes' Kicking Career Splits the Uprights
Dec. 16, 2017
By Kane McGuire
RUSTON -- Take out your calculator or if you prefer open up your calculator app on your smart phone and let's do some math.
Calculate all of the kickoff yards and then add the yardage on all made field goals and made extra points for the career of Louisiana Tech redshirt senior kicker Jonathan Barnes.
It comes to a grand total of 24,553 yards, or 13.95 miles.
Coincidentally, that is about how far south of Ruston on Hwy 167 Jonathan was when he decided he and his 10 ½ size right foot wanted to be a Bulldog.
"I got offered a scholarship the summer before my senior year of high school after a camp at [Joe Aillet Stadium]," he recalled. "I wanted to come back for an unofficial visit with my parents, see the campus. On the way home, we were probably 15 minutes outside of Ruston and I said, `Yep, that's where I want to go to school.'"
What was the first thing he did when he got back home to Baton Rouge from that trip? He collected everything that contained the letters LSU, put it all into a box and gave it away.
It wasn't just your run-of-the-mill packaging box either. It was 17-years-worth of purple and gold. Born and raised in the state capital with both parents Tiger alums, that was all he knew growing up.
Turning down a walk-on spot to the local university, Jonathan was ready to be in a forest of blue and red. Everything had fallen perfectly into place to make this goal a reality, much like when he got to high school as a freshman at Woodlawn and nobody else knew how to kick a football.
That was when his kicking career on the gridiron began. However, his kicking career on the pitch had started much, much earlier in life.
"Soccer is definitely my first love, my passion," Jonathan said emphatically. "I played center mid. Played from when I was three until I graduated high school. I was better at soccer in high school than I was kicking-wise. Being in the south though, there are not many soccer colleges. Also in the south, you realize just how big of a thing college football is. That was what I wanted to do."
His commitment to LA Tech nearly missed wide-right though. Having shutdown his recruitment and signing day creeping closer and closer, the coaching staff that recruited him in 2012 departed for California.
Suddenly in limbo, Jonathan checked his phone one Wednesday night after a soccer match and saw a missed call from a south Florida number. It was Skip Holtz. The new Bulldog boss left an encouraging voicemail, letting Jonathan know he too wanted him as a Bulldog.
That message ultimately resulted in every single career kicking record being broken by Jonathan at LA Tech (aka Kicker U with former Bulldog greats like Matt Stover, Josh Scobee and Chris Boniol who combined for 37 years of kicking in the NFL).
The two-time All-Conference USA selection and two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist is 78-of-99 (78.7 percent) on field goals, 213-of-220 (96.8 percent) on extra-point attempts and owns a total of 447 career points.
He has kicked the football in a game 616 times when you include kickoffs (yes, his leg, abs, hip, back has ached along the way). He owns streaks of 12 and 14 consecutive field goals made.
Long before his name was at the top of each of these statistical categories in the Bulldog record books, there was his very first season in Ruston that did not go according to plan.
"My impression coming in was that I would start day one," Jonathan remembered. "I traveled to NC State, my parents went up there. We get there and we go through walk-throughs, everything. I had taken every first team rep the entire fall camp competing with Kyle Fischer.
"That Saturday morning before the game, I was walking into our hype video before we go to the stadium. I get a tap on the shoulder. It is Coach Ronnie Bradford. He said that they had made a decision that I was not going to play today and that I was going to redshirt. I went to sleep Friday night, probably the most excited I have ever been. The next morning I was pretty devastated. A lot of maturing went on that year for me. It definitely motivated me towards the rest of the career I've had."
Season No. 2, his first as a starter, was a difficult one as well.
"I did not handle the mental aspect very well my first year kicking," Jonathan admitted. "I would go out there wide-eyed, hoping it would go in. When we went to Old Dominion that year, I missed a field goal in the first half and was standing at the end by myself thinking this stinks.
"Our defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came down the sideline. It was the middle of an offensive drive. He doesn't even look at me. He just said, `Hey, you do it every week during practice. All you have to do is trust yourself and go out and kick.' That is all he said and walked away. I had the rest of the game to think about that, and he was right. All I had to do was go out there and not worry about the big picture."
Fast forward to Jonathan's sophomore year. The date was Sept. 19, 2015 in Manhattan, Kansas and the place was Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Having already made three field goals, Jonathan jogged out onto the field with five seconds left.
His job? To make a 45-yarder in front of 53,540 purple people (third largest crowd ever) and send the game into overtime. It was a moment Jonathan said that propelled his career.
"We went out there to tie the game up and I vividly remember jogging out onto the field and looking up, taking a peek, and just seeing purple," said Jonathan. "All you could see was purple, and they were crazy loud. It was my career long at the time. I was jogging out there thinking, `Oh boy, here we go.'"
Great snap, great hold, great kick. He sent it through the middle of the uprights with plenty of leg to spare.
"That is probably my favorite kick," he said. "After that point, it was me looking forward to the pressure because it is so much fun and exciting. If you are not living for that big moment then when that big moment comes, you might be exposed. That kick changed my mindset. Losing the game [in triple overtime] was very disappointing, but it was my favorite kick because of what the affect was on me."
Fast forward yet again. Jonathan has only one more collegiate game left on the schedule -- Dec. 20 versus SMU in Frisco, Texas at the DXL Frisco Bowl in Toyota Stadium.
One more field goal will mark career attempt No. 100. One more win will mark the fourth straight bowl victory in which he has been a big part.
"I did not realize it was going to go by as fast as it has gone," he said. "I was very confident (we would get another chance) after we won the UTSA game. Then the later in the day it got on (bowl selection) Sunday, I was starting to get a little antsy. I was very relieved when the news finally came that we were going to have one more game."
Jonathan says "we" a lot. It is not "I made that kick." It is "we made that kick."
That "we" in his first year included snapper Darrell Travis and holder Taylor Burch. Year two and three were still Travis as the snapper plus holder Logan McPherson. This season has been baseball pitcher-turned snapper Cameron Linck and holder Will Parker.
If it were up to Jonathan, all of their names would be included alongside his in the Tech record books. Because regardless of who has snapped and who has held, the results have amounted to 447 career points, and he couldn't have done it without them.
From a high school soccer kid getting a chance to make game-winning field goals in college football (like the 32-yarder as time expired to beat No. 25 Navy in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl), everything has fallen into place for Jonathan.
Or as he puts it, "They just happened to keep me around long enough, and I kept doing the right thing."
"I tell people all the time that I have been so fortunate to play here during four very successful years as a team," Jonathan said. "In our team meetings, we sit back of the room freshmen to the front of the room seniors. Coach Holtz says the back room is happy to be here. The more you come to the front of the room, you want to play, then you want to start. Then by the time you get in the front, you want to win.
"That is kind of how my career has gone since I have been here. I was excited to be here. Then I was excited that I finally got to play. Then I wanted to start. Then I really wanted to win. As I have gone through that progression, everything has fallen into place."
If everything falls into place on Dec. 20 against SMU, Jonathan will cross the 14-mile threshold on his kicking career.
As the ball sails through the uprights against the Ponies on Wednesday, Louisiana Tech fans might want to extend their arms above their heads like a referee and signal it's good. Or in the case of the career of Jonathan Barnes, it's great.
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