Blue Devil comes home

Published 1:54 am Monday, May 28, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia County High School Blue Devils lost their quarterbacks and running backs coach when Keith Nall resigned in the beginning of this month, but at the same time the Blue Devils gained a linebackers coach.
Jason Barnett, the defensive coordinator at Escambia Academy for the past two years, decided he wanted to 'come home.'
"The opportunity to go home was there and I took it," Barnett said. "Any time momma calls you home, you listen."
Barnett grew up watching Blue Devil football, he graduated from ECHS in 1992 following four seasons as a wide receiver for the Devils and his family has bled blue and white for as long as he can remember.
"My father has seen more ECHS games than anyone his age," Barnett said. "He did not miss a home football game from 1946 through 1996. And that is why I wanted to come back here and coach."
Barnett believes in bringing back the glory of Atmore football.
"I played here, my brothers played here and my family has always been entrenched with Atmore football," he said. "And I want to try and help recreate what we had here when I played here. And I remember in the '70s and '80s if you were not at the Atmore football game you weren't anybody. And that is what I hope to help bring back."
ECHS head coach Kyle Davis has already begun to turn the team around and Davis believes Barnett will be a solid addition to the ECHS staff.
"We have struggled defensively the past couple of years," Davis said. "We just have not had the coaches we needed on that side of the ball. We feel Jason has the knowledge to help coach (Robert) Smith."
Barnett was hired by ECHS May 1 and was with the team for spring training. Davis said he can already see the return on the hire of Barnett.
"He has already formed a good bond with the other coaches and with the players," Davis said.
Barnett got into coaching in 2000 when he was approached by then head football coach of the Escambia Academy Cougars, Mickey Cannon. Cannon was a family friend and he hired Barnett as the defensive backs coach and five years later Barnett became the defensive coordinator.
Before coaching, Barnett worked for his father, James Barnett, at Barnett and Associates. He still works there now and has worked there since 1996. Directly after graduating high school in 1992 Barnett went to Alabama Southern on a baseball scholarship and then transferred to Auburn in 1994. He walked on to the football team and he made a lot of good friends.
"There were a lot of good people on that team, including Stephen Davis," Barnett said.
But when the opportunity came open to work for his father, Barnett jumped on it. And he is now doing what he is passionate about, coaching.
The split from the Academy had nothing to do with any of the people over there, Barnett said.
"I enjoyed my time at the Academy," he said. "I owe where I am now to the people out there. I found a love I didn't know I had out there and the Academy was good to me. But the opportunity to come home was just too good of an offer. And for that I want to thank coach Davis for putting his faith in me and allowing me to come home."
Coming home is the reason Barnett moved across town, and the first time he walked back into the ECHS field house he knew he had made the right decision.
"Sports are all about memories and when I walked back into that locker room and saw my initials and number still carved into the wood, that was it," Barnett said. "That moment is when I knew I had made the right choice."

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