Reusse: Matter of the heart derails a sibling's Big Ten dream

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2012 - 11:20 PM

While Ross Barker can only watch from the sidelines at Wisconsin, older brother A.J. is emerging as a go-to Gopher.


Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Ross Barker had followed his brother A.J. to DeLaSalle High School and found similar athletic success as a receiver in football and on the basketball court. He was hoping to follow his brother and make it as a walk-on in Big Ten football.

Tim Brewster's coaching staff at Minnesota invited A.J. to walk on in late March 2009. He enrolled at the U on June 1, took a couple of classes and started working out with the Gophers.

Ross was accepted as a 2012 freshman in the engineering school at Wisconsin.

He was among the walk-ons who would join the team on the first day of classes [Sept. 4] and try to make enough of an impression to stick around.

"We had health checkups beforehand that included an echocardiogram and there was something the doctors saw that they didn't like," Ross said. "They put me through a full electro-cardiogram and found the aneurysm."

It was an aneurysm of the aorta. There was a balloon effect to the aorta. And doctors said that balloon could burst if Ross were to suffer a blow to the area.

Bottom line: No more contact sports.

"That was definitely the worst news of my life," Ross said. "I've always taken pride that I would work the hardest and never quit. And now I was told that I had to quit -- not only football, but basketball is out, too.''

A.J. Barker still was trying to get a handle on the news earlier this week.

"Ross is going to find out over the next six months what he can and can't do," A.J. said. "He has such a strong will. He'll figure out something to do as an athlete.''

Maybe Ross already has.

"I'm trying out with the Hodags," he said. "I think I impressed them in my first workout. I made three or four great catches."

These would be the Wisconsin Hodags -- one of the best intercollegiate Ultimate Frisbee teams in the country.

"The doctors don't recommend it, but they didn't say I couldn't play Frisbee," Ross said.

The Barkers live in St. Paul. John runs St. Anthony Home, a health care facility. Jan is a prosecutor for Ramsey County. There are three sons: Leland, A.J. and Ross.

"Thanks to our parents, we did everything ... even took piano lessons,'' A.J. said. "I was in three or four sports at the same time in the summer: a couple of baseball teams, basketball, soccer. And golf -- we played golf whenever we had the chance.

"That's the one sport where Ross doesn't have a chance to beat me ... golf."

A.J. was in the Gophers program from 2009 through 2011 and appeared in six games. He had one catch, for 17 yards, in 2010.

"I would be moving up on the depth chart, and then get a hamstring pull," A.J. said. "Fortunately, we have a great strength program with Eric Klein. And as I've gotten stronger, the hamstring problem has been under control."

Klein came in with Jerry Kill in December 2010. The new Gophers coaches were impressed with Barker's hands, smarts and athletic ability. Yet, the message from Kill to Alexander James Barker before the start of practice this August was blunt:

If he wanted his last two years of eligibility at Minnesota to amount to something, he was going to have to show reliability and durability. If not, the Gophers would move on to younger receivers.

Two games in, Barker has five catches for a team-leading 130 yards (including a 40-yard touchdown). He also has become the main punt returner.

A.J. is getting a chance to call himself a Big Ten football player -- something he regrets that his brother will not experience, even if it might have been for the Badgers.

"No matter what he does as an athlete from here, Ross does have a moment that I've never experienced," A.J. said. "He hit the shot. I was there. It was awesome.''

The shot came in the last fractions of a second in the Class 3A state title game last March in Target Center. Washburn had gone ahead of DeLaSalle 56-55 with under 10 seconds left. The Islanders pushed the ball forward, guard Tyler Moore found Ross, and he drilled a 17-footer for a 57-56 victory.

"That's the last official game I've played in any sport," Ross said. "If that's it for me, it was a pretty cool way to finish.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tennessee 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question