Sunshine, mostly blue skies and 85-degree temperatures delivered a picturesque backdrop on Wednesday at Huntington Bank Stadium, while Gary Hines and the Sounds of Blackness provided the soothing soundtrack for the celebration of life for former Gophers running back Marion Barber III.
A gathering of family, friends and fans — some wearing Barber's No. 21 jersey with the Gophers, others in his No. 24 with the Dallas Cowboys — said goodbye to Barber, who died June 1 at his Frisco, Texas, apartment, nine days shy of his 39th birthday.
Teammates with both the Gophers and the Cowboys, including Terrell Owens, bid farewell to the player who helped Minnesota return to prominence with its strong running game and whose nickname "Marion the Barbarian'' became popular during his time with the Cowboys.
"It's overwhelming the outpour that we have received,'' said Dom Barber, Marion's younger brother who was joined on stage by the youngest Barber brother, Thomas.
A variety of speakers shared their memories.
* Laurence Maroney, who with Barber formed a Gophers running back tandem that saw each rush for more than 1,000 yards in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, emphasized the bond that he and Barber developed.
"Marion was not just a teammate to me,'' Maroney said. "He was truly my brother and this one hurts, and it hurts deeply.''
Maroney also expressed regret and apologized to Barber's parents, Marion Jr. and Karen, that he wasn't able to help Marion III more as he went through post-football struggles that included being taken for a mental health evaluation after two incidents in 2018.
"Even though I did all that Marion allowed me to do for him, I can't shake the feeling that there's something more I should have done,'' Maroney said. "… Marion, until we meet again, I love you, too, brother.''
* Former Gophers coach Glen Mason pointed out that Barber did not play in Huntington Bank Stadium — which opened in 2009 — but his efforts helped the Gophers leave the Metrodome and return to campus.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how many players said, 'Man, we wish we had a place like this to play when we were here.' I said, 'Take solace in the idea that Marion Barber and guys like you made this place possible,' '' Mason said.
* Owens, who played with Barber from 2006-08 with Dallas, took the stage with eight other former Cowboys teammates. He recalled Barber playing the piano during training camp. "I had no idea this guy was that gifted,'' Owens said. "I wish I had that talent.''
* On this emotional day, Dom Barber read his letter of tribute to Marion, fighting back tears along the way.
"The hardest part for me: My kids won't have Uncle Marion,'' Dom said. "That's OK. That's what's hardest for you, too. I will teach my kids your spirit, your ways. They will know who Uncle Marion was, what he was about.''