By LARRY VAUGHT
Give Drew Barker credit for understanding that many University of Kentucky fans really do not yet know him — and he wants to keep working to change that.
“I know I have had some setbacks before but I would not label that as who I am as a person. I am definitely nice and polite. Sometimes people get the wrong picture of someone and you can’t tell that is really not right if you don’t know them,” said the Kentucky sophomore quarterback.
He came to Kentucky as a high profile recruit after saying no to South Carolina and others to stay in his home state. However, two off-field incidents during his redshirt freshman season made many question both his leadership and discipline
Barker had to learn tough lessons about being in the spotlight.
“No doubt, especially since everything was so public. I feel everything happens for a reason and the lessons you learn in life are part of that. Everyone has a plan. I have definitely learned from those incidents and they have definitely changed me into who I am today,” Barker said. “I am more mature and seeing things from different angles. Obviously I wish they had not happened, but maybe it helped me in a way.”
Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw has done a lot of work with Barker not only on the field but also helping him establish a new brand for himself.
“He’s doing a great job of leadership. When a quarterback has not been successful on the field yet, you really can’t lead with your mouth,” Hinshaw said. “You have to lead with your actions. It’s hard. You have to be disciplined. You have to get up in the morning. First one in, last to leave. That’s what I want to see him continue to do.”
Hinshaw said it wasn’t just him impressed with how Barker has changed. He said many connected with the football program have noticed the change. Now he doesn’t want to see that change as UK draws closer to opening the season Sept. 3.
“Now the minute you think you have arrived and are doing good, that’s the minute you start going downhill. We have to continue for him to work hard. That goes for all the quarterbacks, not just Drew,” Hinshaw said
Barker found out how fast that image could change when it first got involved in a pellet gun incident on campus and then was involved in two altercations in Richmond during his first offseason at UK.
“You have got to realize what kind of spotlight your actions can bring if you are on a Division I football team, especially if you are a quarterback. You just have to always have that in the back of your head. Some other person that was just a regular student, it might not have been as big but I have to realize what an impact it could have when something happens,” Barker said.
He knows the public scrutiny he was under was not easy to endure, especially for his parents. But he said they never wavered in their support.
“They have had my back through a lot. They tell me all the time life is about choices, decisions and consequences. You make a bad choice and bad decision, you have to face the consequences,” Barker said. “Same thing with good choices and good decisions. You will get good rewards.
“Just living my life by that and they have been a big help and been there for me. They have told me, ‘You have to straighten up and do this and that.’ But they have done that their whole life and I can’t thank them enough for that.”