April 19, 2005
By Brian Tom
They've been examined from head to toe, tested both physically and mentally and run through the gauntlet of every imaginable football drill. They've answered all the tough questions, flown across country--sometimes several times--and met with strangers who through watching film and their every move during visits will determine their future.
So goes the life of every National Football League draft prospect. After being under the microscope of the watchful eyes of NFL scouts, it will all come to a head this Saturday and Sunday as the NFL conducts its two-day 2005 Draft in New York City. And even then, there are still no guarantees for those who have survived one of the most grueling job interviews in the world.
One person who shouldn't have to immediately worry about his financial future is former Husky offensive tackle Khalif Barnes. Barnes has been projected by most draft experts as being picked in the middle-to-the-end of the first round. Yet still, Barnes has no guarantees as to where he will go in the draft.
"I guess it would be one thing to be nervous if you knew where exactly you were going, but for me it's who knows," says Barnes. "There's so many things being thrown out there (about where he'll be drafted). You think you're going somewhere and then all of the sudden you're with a team that you never really even talked to. So, it's really up in the air."
Barnes is use to uncertainty. He was a redshirt defensive lineman his first year at Washington after arriving from Mount Miguel High School outside of San Diego. He switched during practice for the 2001 Rose Bowl to the offensive side of the ball, a move that he didn't fully embrace until the coaches told him he'd be given every opportunity to win a starting spot for the next year's home opener versus Michigan.
Barnes ended up winning that spot for the 2001 opener and started every game for the Huskies until breaking his wrist five games into the 2004 season. With that break, Barnes' senior season was over and left him with some ground to make up before the NFL draft.
Barnes rehabbed religiously and worked himself back into playing shape before the Senior Bowl where NFL coaches teem to look for the next great thing. Barnes arrived at the camp with little reputation, but he left raising the eyebrows of NFL scouts and draft pundits. He followed that up with a stellar workout at the NFL combine and personal workouts where he further impressed with his speed and overall athleticism. Now the 6-foot-6, 305-pound stands as one of the top three offensive tackles available in the entire draft.
"I had a little more work to do than the other tackles like Jammal (Brown of Oklahoma) and Alex (Barron of Florida State)," said Barnes about coming off his injury. "I missed six games and they played a full season. For me it was a personal thing to show them that I'm at equal caliber with those guys."
Now that Barnes has elevated himself to elite status, it's time for him to sit back and soak it all in. Barnes plans on watching the draft at home in San Diego with friends and family. If all goes as planned, he'll hear his name several hours into the draft's first round. Once his name is called he claims he'll celebrate for 10 minutes and then its back to business as usual in order to earn a roster spot.
"I'm up for whatever," says Barnes. "Where ever I get my named called, I'm going to be ready to work. Along with also being drafted in the first round, you have to keep in mind that you have to go in there and do what they drafted you to do. You're a first round pick, so a lot of high things are expected of you."
Several other Huskies will be in the same boat as Barnes, anticipating where they will start their NFL careers. Cornerback Derrick Johnson, fullback Zach Tuiasosopo and wide receiver Charles Frederick all could be late first or second day picks. Tight end Jon Lyon, linebacker Tim Galloway and cornerback Sam Cunningham hope to be invited by NFL teams to fight for roster spots as free agents.
But like Barnes and the rest of the draft prospects there are no guarantees. Just hopes of continuing a dream that not everyone gets to live through.
"This is fun for me because it doesn't happen to everybody," says Barnes about the draft process. "Sure, everybody that wants to play this game comes into college saying `I want to be a high draft pick'. It's one thing to say that and then actually go through the four or five year process and now actually be a week away of possibly doing that. In that regards, it's a heck of a deal I think."