Several decades ago, Bill Yoast (best known as the assistant to Herman Boone at T.C. Williams High, which was depicted in the film Remember the Titans), arrived in Roswell, Ga., to make Roswell High one of the most successful programs in the state. Fast-forward to today: RHS has a new sheriff in town to uphold the unwritten law that states that Roswell is an elite program. His name is Leo Barker and if you’ve never heard of him, you will. Coach Barker has been coaching in the north-metro area for years, but this past April he was appointed as only the tenth man to serve as head coach.
Originally from Panama, Barker earned a scholarship to attend New Mexico State without ever having set foot on U.S. soil. From there, he was drafted in 1983 by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. Barker brings many years of experience on the highest level to a young Roswell team that lost many starters last year.
He, like many other great coaches, believes in taking care of the small details to facilitate the win.
“I believe if they don’t score, they can’t win,” says Barker, and that quote perfectly sums up his defensive mentality. We all know the mantra that defense wins championships, and that is just what is expected at a program like Roswell.
On the offensive side of the ball, Roswell benefits from having great depth at the receiver position. Mix that with a strong offensive line and a true leader at quarterback, and they should have no problem getting the ball down the field this year. Coach Barker will focus more on the defensive side of the ball during the game, but he has made it known that they will be running at their opponents hard, fast, and often.
Barker feels honored to be in a position that carries so much prestige. He is only the tenth man to be named head coach in Roswell’s long history of football. The men before him took the program to the elite level and Barker fully intends on keeping it there. “The community is totally behind this football team, totally behind this school,” says Barker.
Barker understands that at the high-school level, making a better individual player is far more important than winning championships. Winning is something that comes with coaching your players to be the best they can be. He has great faith in his coaching staff that they will all be able to successfully work together to build a better team.
Though Barker is very serious about making his kids work hard to become stronger and faster, he knows that his athletes are students first.
“If [the players] can’t behave in a classroom and do what the teachers ask them to do, it’s kind of hard for me to ask them to do something on the field,” says Barker, who has high expectations for his players not only on the field but in the classroom. He believes that they must carry themselves well off the field, in order to be a good teammate because, as he says “… that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Despite the success that Roswell has had recently, the Hornets will be without many of their top players from a year ago. Graduation hit Roswell hard, and the schedule is unforgiving early.
“In a perfect world you don’t have to open up your first football game as a head coach way down in Tift County,” Barker says, referring to the Region 1 power Tift County Blue Devils. Another intriguing game on the schedule will take place on Oct. 31 when Barker faces a team he used to coach for … Walton.
Barker does not believe in talking about winning championships, he believes in talking about working hard and getting better. It seems that even if Roswell’s players don’t go all the way this year, they will certainly have the necessary tools to succeed at the highest level down the road – whether that is on a football field or off it.
Collier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.