Calvin Barnett's BIG Expectations

Tuesday, June 9th 2009, 5:51 pm
By: News On 6

By Kyle Dierking,

TULSA, OK - The thermometer is pushing 90 degrees and rising. It's becoming another brow-beating day, as a cloudless sky gives way to the glaring sun.

Summer is slowly getting here, one sweat bead at a time.

All of that has gone unnoticed at the one place where you can find salvation from the heat.


Kids are yelling, plunging and playing at the O'Brien Park Pool. Among the controlled chaos, a teenager does back-flips, dives and borderline belly flops off the diving board.




Calvin Barnett is a lifeguard here and would probably be unassuming if it weren't for his, well, size.

"You see lifeguards with abs and cut bodies. I don't have that," he quips. "I'm 320 pounds right now. There's never been a lifeguard that big."

The defensive tackle from Booker T. Washington embraces a larger-than-life style. He's 6-foot-3, 320 pounds in all, a booming voice, big britches, makes big plays and has even bigger opinions. Big defines him.

But there's one big thing Barnett's trying to boot from his big repertoire.

A big ego.

"It's easy to say something and sound cocky and stuff like that," he says one day after practice. "It's real easy to get up there at that level not being able to control it."

Sometimes it's the side-effect of the big man on campus, but who can blame him for a little big headedness? He's the second-ranked prospect in the state of Oklahoma, 10th-rated defensive tackle and is the 158th-best player in the country, all according to

The who's-who of collegiate coaching is salivating over the big guy's skills, as in Pete Carroll, Mike Gundy, Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban, Bob Stoops and a laundry list of others.

"I'm adjusting to it all; it's kind of different, but I'm getting the hang of it," Barnett says, "My phone rings more than it usually does - it's just not my girlfriend anymore."

When USC told Hornets coach Antwain Jimmerson they were offering Barnett a scholarship, he contained the big guy's bragging by not telling him about the big offer. 

"In the past, I get real big-headed, real fast - real arrogant, real fast," Barnett says, "I guess that's why he didn't tell me, but I'm not trippin' about it. It's OK, I'm cool."

But modest and motive don't go together. Can a high school athlete be humble in this new age of recruiting? Message board fodder permeates from recruiting rankings, prospects top five school lists and the preverbal question of, "is he a soft or hard verbal?" 

Not surprisingly, Barnett has his sights set on being the best. He is second-only to Tulsa Central's Demarco Cobbs in most Oklahoma recruiting ranking lists.

"Me, personally, I feel like I'm number one. I'm not rated number one, but that doesn't make me mad or anything," Barnett says. "Since they don't feel the same, I guess I'm going to have to go out next season and prove that I am number one."

Barnett has the unique talent of being as good at football as he is engaging and charismatic. He welcomes  challenges like defending a state title and making a college choice. All the while taking solace from the hot sun under an umbrella.

"This is probably the best summer job," he says, of being a lifeguard. "I haven't had many summer jobs, but there isn't anything better than swimming after football practice."

Barnett has a few hours before his shift ends, but he's in no hurry to leave the paradise of the pool. Sitting on the lifeguard stand, consumed and concentrated, all of the work ahead seems distant.

"By me calming down and doing what I'm supposed to do, it's doing to make me play even harder," he says. "I'm not really worried about any of that. I'm just here to do my job."

Saving lives at the pool and a winning state championship on the field. Something about those job descriptions hardly seems humble.

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