Sept. 2, 2003
Whether the Huskies are able to successfully run the football in 2003 will determine heavily on the ability of the team's offensive line to clear holes and wear down opposing defenses. All five offensive line starters return for Washington this season, as well as several key backups, giving the Huskies their most experienced line in years. It could be argued that the leader of the line is junior Khalif Barnes, whose never-quit demeanor has made him a role model both on and off the field. A true freshman in 2000, Barnes was tutored early on by members of the Huskies' dominant offensive line that was largely responsible for the team's run to the 2001 Rose Bowl title. GoHuskies.com correspondent C.J. Bowles talked with Barnes about life in the trenches, and his goals for 2003.
GoHuskies.com: Offensive linemen are often referred to as 'gentle giants.' Do you agree with that description?
Khalif Barnes: "Yeah, I think we are 'gentle giants.' Off the field, you can be nice, be a gentleman, and be cool. When you get on the field, though, you have to put on a different helmet - kind of like being two people in one. You have to be the meanest dawg to ever walk the planet. You have to hate everybody in an opposite colored jersey; you don't like any of them."
GH: How much does it help to have five returning starters on the o-line?
Barnes: "We have a lot of experience in the group. We don't have to start over with young guys and teach them; instead we can pick up where we left off and improve from there. We need that kind of experience and chemistry. We do have some young 'cats' coming in who are going to be great once they get the proper strength and coaching."
GH: What's in your CD player when you're getting ready for the game?
Barnes: "I've got some Jay-Z going, some Tupac. I pretty much listen to those two. Once the games over, I still listen to those two, but I can listen to a few others also."
GH: Do you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals?
Barnes: "I pray in my locker before every game. I pray for myself and the opponents we're about to play against, that no one gets hurt. Also, I pray for my family at home watching."
GH: When the guys aren't calling you Khalif, what are they calling you?
Barnes: "People have been calling me 'Leef' since I was a very, very small. Then when I got to college no one knew it was my nickname, but guys started calling me it here, too. It must just be a natural name for me."
GH: Is there anybody on TV you're a big fan of?
Barnes: "I like Martin Lawrence. I'm a funny kind of guy and he makes me laugh a lot. He's really funny, but in his shows he also has some serious messages too, so he can be funny and serious at the same time."
GH: Is there anybody in Hollywood you find particularly attractive?
Barnes: "I'd have to say one of my favorites is one of every guy's favorites - Halle Berry."
GH: Would she be one of the three people you would invite to dinner if you could?
Barnes: "I'd have dinner with Malcolm X and Jim Carrey, because I think that'd be funny to get those two together. Oh, and Michael Jordan."
GH: What was the best part of camp in Olympia?
Barnes: "My favorite part of camp is the nighttime. The second practice is over, it's dinnertime, and we make the freshmen sing a little bit. That's the time for the team to start to get to know each other and start to build some bonds."
GH: If you could be any comic book character, who would you be, and why?
Barnes: "I saw the movie 'Hulk,' and I really like him, but it's between Spiderman and Superman. I'm going to go with Superman because he can be a normal man. Spiderman can do some cool stuff, but Superman is so strong, I like that about him."
GH: If you could make one bold prediction for the year, what would it be?
Barnes: "If my predictions are right, I'm thinking we'll be floating around in roses down in Pasadena, Calif. I really think this team has worked hard enough to get a chance to head down there. Anything less would be a disappointment to myself. That's how I feel and that's what I'm going to try to do."