By John Davis – Oxford Citizen
Featured Writer – Rebel Nation Magazine™
As published in the July/August 2015 Football Preview
Barney Farrar knew he wanted to be a football coach and use his abilities to help change lives
Barney Farrar knew his way out of Kossuth would be through football. The most inspirational people in his life growing up were always coaches. They were the ones that showed and told him there was a better way of doing things.
“I knew at that point that I wanted to be a football coach,” Farrar said. “They had made such an impact and impression on my life. I knew I wasn’t going to go play anywhere after college and I knew that I was going to be lucky to play college ball because I was so small.”
As Farrar put it best “I was working all my life to get off the farm and now I’m working to have one.”
Farrar played safety and corner in high school and he said that he was fortunate enough to play at Delta State where he earned his degree in physical education. Farrar, who is the assistant athletics director for high school and junior college relations on the Ole Miss football staff, said that while coaching was his means to a way out, it was also his chance to change lives. It was his chance to help people much like himself that weren’t going to play in the NFL.
“I wanted to help the ones that weren’t going to be millionaires but could still be a millionaire in life. You could have a rich life and love what you did, and that was something I wanted to do,” Farrar said. “I could never give back what several coaches gave me in my life. Coach Lonnie Harris, who was my junior high football coach, who is a big Ole Miss guy and now an insurance agent in Fulton, he was a huge impression in my life. Tommy Patterson from Pontotoc was another who made a huge impression in my life when I was in high school. Bill Ward at Northeast made a huge impression. From there it might have been Red Parker who coached me at Delta State. He made the final and lasting impression in my life on how I wanted to be and how I wanted to coach and the things I wanted to do in life.”
Farrar‘s job revolves heavily around interaction with players, from the ones that make up the current roster, to recruiting the players that will be added to the roster. Farrar is regarded as a great recruiter and his fingerprints are all over the 2015 signing class.
While he may be a man in his 50s, there are some things in life that don’t change and some of the experiences a player is going through now really are the same as when Farrar was growing up.
“Some things never change and probably the greatest lesson I ever got from my grandmother was when my uncle was fussing about things and I was in her lap in a rocking chair,” Farrar said. “I was just a young child, but I will never forget this. She stopped and told my uncle ‘Emmet, baby if you don’t change with change, you’re going to get left behind.’ I have never forgotten that statement. I’ve watched in coaching how things constantly changed. Players changed. Times changed. How I was treated, you can’t treat a guy like that now. You could kick and slap a guy when I was playing. You could hit him in the head with your whistle when I was playing. Those things, they’ve changed, and they’ve changed a lot.”
The role of the “good cop” is something Farrar enjoys so much more than the role of the bad guy. He did admit that he became a better “bad cop” after he had children and he knew how much he needed to discipline them.
“I also found out that if you’re helping too much you’re enabling your own children, our your players,” Farrar said. “At some point you do have to tell the truth. That doesn’t mean that you’re mean, it’s just you’re telling them the truth. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but the truth, it does set you free as it says in the word. It helps you become a better player and it helps you become a better coach. The things that are my shortcomings are the things I probably work the hardest at. That’s where I think I’ve helped myself is knowing my shortcomings. I know what I can do good. I highlight that. The things that are hard on me, I work at constantly.”
Farrar said the hardest thing for him was telling a player no or that they’re not good enough to do something.
“I do think that because I was told no so many times and I was able to overcome the no, I still think that’s a chance for everyone. Now I have learned at some point it’s on them,” Farrar said. “You can give them everything, love, discipline. You can teach them everything you can teach them but at some point, they have to do it. You give them all the necessary tools to do it with and then at some point they have to do it.”
Before coming back to Ole Miss for the second time — he was the assistant AD for external affairs in 2006 — Farrar was coaching tight ends at Southern Miss under Larry Fedora. Prior to that, Farrar was always a secondary or outside linebackers coach because he is more suited to the defensive side of things.
“It’s react instead of think and now it’s all thinking, it doesn’t matter whether it’s offense or defense,” Farrar said. “You have to know what the scenario is number one and then number two, you have to know what you do. At that point, you react.”
With the way the offenses are now in college football, Farrar said defensive players have to be great tacklers in the open field. Or they can’t see the field.
“You have to be a really great athlete. The days of 3 yards and a cloud of dust and big heavy dudes inside that just play three or four plays, those days are gone,” Farrar said. “The guys now have to be athletic. They have to be able to rush the quarterback and then they have to be able to take on a block and make a tackle on a running play. The offenses are so much better in today’s football. They make you think as a defensive coach. The speed of the game is much faster. They just run so many more plays now. The amount of plays compared to the 80s is just night and day. You used to work on a two-minute defense. Well, that’s gone with the buffalo.”
While at Southern Miss, Farrar didn’t just prepare for an opposing team each week, he also battled against throat cancer. When Farrar got up the nerve to see a doctor, it was in stage four.
“I had a lump in my throat for a full year,” Farrar said. “I was very sore in my neck. I actually had a couple of doctors tell me that it was just an infection and they would give me antibiotics and then when I got to Southern Miss, it started bothering me again in the spring when I first got to Southern Miss in 2008. As soon as camps were over that year, I set up an appointment and I went in and saw the doctor and they immediately sent me over to an ear, nose and throat specialist. They went in an did a biopsy and after I went for my second opinion in Little Rock, I found out it was literally stage four. The tumor was big, but it grew inward instead of out.”
Treatment started for Farrar soon after and instead of going in for radiation for 30 minutes at a time, he was exposed to a different style of treatment where he went in the morning and afternoon. The afternoon session came before practices. He also underwent chemotherapy for nine weeks. Farrar ended up undergoing 63 radiation treatments.
“I learned more about myself and I learned more about my faith and my acceptance of Jesus Christ than at any point in my life,” Farrar said. “I knew with the stage that I was in with my cancer it was maybe you do and maybe you don’t. I had one player that I had coached when I was at Clemson who had become an evangelist named Jeff Parker. I prayed with him and a lady over the phone. She had breast cancer and she was in his church. He’s a coach as well in Florida now. When I got up off my knees, I knew that day, after I found out I had cancer, I never forgot that moment. I felt sorry for myself for about three days.”
He got over his mini depression through the help of other coaches. He said his current boss called, as did Ed Orgeron and Ken Hatfield, who he coached under at Clemson and Rice. The message was simple and clear: get back to work, and don’t feel sorry for yourself.
“That was the approach that I took and I wouldn’t let anyone around me that was weak and wanted to feel sorry for me,” Farrar said. “On a couple of occasions, Fedora told me that I was the one who wanted to come into the office everyday and if I did, I had to work. That would kind of get me going so to speak. It would make my motor and my mind go. I said I had to overcome this. I wrote in a journal that I didn’t just want to survive it, I wanted to overcome it, and all the negative things they said I was going to have because of it like no saliva glands left or that all my molars were going to have to be pulled out because they were going to rot out because of all the radiation. I still got all my teeth. They said I would lose my taste and possibly never get it back. I still have all my taste.”
Farrar beat cancer and has been free of it every check up he goes back for. His battle with cancer allowed him to reunite with Freeze, the coach that he feels is not only a great offensive mind, but a coach who is great with his players.
“I heard a statement made many years ago as a young coach and that is ‘I don’t know what he’s got, but he’s got it. And if you have to ask what it is, you don’t have it,’” Farrar said. “I saw that he had it when I was here before as an assistant and when he was assistant. Some people just have the certain persona so to speak and you just say that guy can be a head coach. He mixes with players well. He’s a great speaker. He’s a guy that thinks outside of the box, recruiting as well. I think he does a tremendous job with recruiting due to his personality. I think he relates well with the moms and dads because of his background growing up with his spirituality. And then, I think he relates well with the players because he’s kept up with the times. He knows what they’re thinking. He’s very sincere with them. He gives them his heart.” – RN
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