Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Kurt Barber

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from USC


If Kurt Barber knew then what he knows now…

A second-team All-Pac-10 linebacker at USC, Barber was selected by the Jets in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft.

"I remember them being at a workout and talking briefly, but it didn't seem as if they were one of the teams that showed the most interest. So, I think that's why I was surprised," Barber said. "I think for the Jets, I had a first-round grade and they selected me in the second round because I was still on the board. But I don't think I fit their scheme.

"I was more of a 3-4 linebacker and they were a 4-3 scheme. It wasn't a good fit and I don't think the coaching staff was really that thrilled about getting me because they wanted a smaller linebacker that was better in coverage. I was decent in coverage, but I was not what they were looking for."

Barber and the Jets got off to a rough start, and for a variety of reasons, it didn't get much smoother.

"I've got to be honest; I was really immature," Barber said. "And I didn't have a good relationship with my position coach. It was the only time in my career that I didn't have a good relationship with my coach. But me and Foge Fazio didn't get along at all. And it really hurt me because I'm a relationship person and not having a good relationship with my coach really affected the way I played.

"I think No. 1, it was our personalities. And No. 2, he was a big Notre Dame fan and he kept throwing the USC stuff in my face. I thought that was odd. And No. 3, I was not a student of the game. I didn't study. I relied on my talent. And at that level, you've got to have talent, but you've also got to be a student of the game.

"I was able to have the success that I had in college because of my athletic ability. I got to the pros and the game was completely different. In college, we had so many All-Americans and superstars, the coaches were smart enough to keep it simple. We had two calls, maybe three. And when I got to the Jets, the playbook, you had 20, 30 calls. I mean, it was extensive. I didn't make the adjustment.

"And in terms of the New York experience, I probably had too much fun. I'd have played a lot longer if I focused more on my career."

With the Jets for four seasons from 1992-95, Barber's second career as a college football coach began because of a chance meeting in a neighborhood fitness center.

"A guy saw me training and asked if I was interested in working with his players at Riverside (CA) Community College," Barber said. "So, I started working out with them every day and decided to coach them that season. I had so much fun I did it for the next 20 years."

Barber coached at several colleges including Cincinnati, UNLV, Utah, Kent State, and Tennessee-Martin.

"What I loved about it was being around young people and learning more about the game. I learned so much about the game that I realized that if I had known half the stuff as a player, I would have been an All-Pro," Barber said.

"Me, having been a coach, I had a lot of success, I helped a lot of players get into the NFL. I coached James Harrison at Kent State. I coached Sione Po'uha and Jonathan Fanene at Utah. A ton of guys. I knew how to reach people from different backgrounds.

"I think my journey was an awesome experience because I ran into some Kurt Barbers. Guys that had really good athleticism, but didn't understand and been able to get them to play. You just have to reach them wherever level they are."

Now retired, Barber, who has four children and two grandchildren, makes his home in Phoenix, Arizona.