Too Good Not to Get the Ball
Another In A Series From Our Friends At Mighty Oregon
An Interview With Kenjon Barner
By Dusty Ritter
Kenjon Barner came in to his senior season ready to capitalize. Finally out of the shadow of LaMichael James, he prepped by stepping it up in the gym, the community, and as a leader. His preparation paid off huge as Oregon finished off the season 13-1 with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State and a number two ranking in both the AP and Coaches poll. One of the highlights of the 2012 season occurred at the LA Coliseum against USC, where Barner had a career night, rushing for over 300 yards on the ground and nearly 350 yards from scrimmage scoring five touchdowns and breaking the single-season record of LaMichael James. For the season, Kenjon gained 1,767 yards, finishing as the 2nd overall rusher in the PAC-12 and a consensus All-American. Kenjon is projected as a mid-round pick for the 2013 NFL draft—not bad for this 3-star number, 93rdranked corner back signed in 2008.
Coming out of Notre Dame High School in Riverside California, Kenjon Barner was ranked as the 38th best high school running back prospect in the country according to Rivals.com in 2007. Oregon looked to instead use the California prep rushing leader on defense.
Bursting onto the scene in 2009, he finished with a single season school record in kickoff return yards of 1,020 yards. With those numbers, the Ducks had to find more ways to put the ball into his hands. Defense lost the battle, and in his last two games of the season he broke out with a touchdown and 193 all-purpose yards. He followed that with an impressive 227 all-purpose yards against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons were huge for Barner. He wrapped up 2010 with 54 points and 551 yards after scoring five touchdowns and rushing for 147 yards in the season opener versus New Mexico. He posted 228 all-purpose yards and an 80-yard punt return against the Tennessee Volunteers. Kenjon totaled 1,232 all-purpose yards in 2011, including three consecutive 100+ yard performances in Pac-12 play. He concluded the season with a touchdown and two receptions and seven rushes versus Wisconsin in Oregon’s 2012 Rose Bowl victory.
Q&A With Kenjon Barner
MO: What was your first love in sports?
KB: Basketball, without question. I played that from the age of four up until now, so basketball absolutely.
MO: How did high school football go for you?
KB: My high school career was amazing. I had some awesome teammates, great coaches, and great years in high school.
MO: What teams were recruiting you and what made you choose Oregon?
KB: Arizona, Washington State, Washington, UCLA, UTEP, and West Virginia. I chose Oregon just because of how it felt here. The athletic program and coaches are always nice, but I wanted to see what the community was like, so it was the community that brought me here.
MO: How is Gary Campbell as a coach?
KB: Oh man, he’s more than a coach. He’s the definition of a true and real man. He’s honest, up front, caring…like a father figure to a lot of us who are away from our fathers.
MO: How hard was it to learn this system?
KB: For me it wasn’t hard at all. I picked it up easy. I’ve never really had a problem with it when I put my head into it.
MO: When you’re at the line of scrimmage…what are you looking for and what are your responsibilities?
KB: I’m looking at the linebackers and lineman. Where they’re lined up and whether the defensive line has shifted. I’m looking at the tilt of the safety. I’m trying to get a pre-snap read of where my cut may end up being.
MO: Looking back, how did the hard hit against Washington State affect you?
KB: More so as a person. It just made me appreciate the game a lot more. As a player it made me play a lot smarter, it made me more aware.
MO: What has been your personal highlight so far?
KB: In the locker room after we beat Stanford in 2011 was just amazing. That’s probably something that I’ll never experience again; that, and more recently the win at the Rose Bowl.
MO: What do you do for fun other than football?
KB: Well in the summertime I wakeboard and I wake-surf, go bowling, I like to go to the movies, ride my skateboard; I pretty much do anything to have fun.
MO: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
KB: Probably that I’m deathly afraid of spiders and I love country music.
MO: What impact do you hope to leave behind?
KB: People being able to say that was a good guy; someone who was extremely humble and had no problem representing his faith anywhere or at any time.
MO: What would you like to do after football?
KB: I want to get involved with the FBI. I’ve been intrigued by that for years now, so that’s definitely something I want to at least have the opportunity to do.
MO: What is special about this group of players?
KB: Our attitude. The attitude of this team is just completely different from previous teams, everyone is willing to be all in.
Coach Gary Campbell’s comments on Kenjon
MO: How has Kenjon developed in his time at Oregon?
GC: He’s a better leader, he’s matured. He took it upon himself this year to get in condition and stay in it, to keep himself well-nourished, and get a lot of rest. I think he’s matured not only physically but emotionally as well, becoming a vocal leader.
MO: What are his strengths and what stands out about him?
GC: Obviously he has great vision, speed, he’s a strong kid. He’s gotten himself physically fit, which makes him a more durable football player. He’s a smart player, he picks up blitzes, and he’s a very good blocker.
MO: What are some highlights you’ve seen from him, on and off the field?
GC: He’s made some nice long runs, plays that can break the game open. Off the field, he’s looked up to and there are a lot of requests for him to get out into the community.
Mighty Oregon is an independent full color magazine dedicated to covering University of Oregon sports. It is available free of charge in the Eugene-Springfield area at the following locations: Dari Marts, Bi Marts, Knechts, Duck Stores and Oregon Sports stores. We publish after every football game and then once per month through June, for a total of 20 issues, and we intend increase our frequency in the near future. A Duck fan can subscribe for $45 (we have to ship first class which costs about $35). To order, email: email@example.com or call Jerry Thompson at 541-221-3154.