SE: 'Brothers For Life' — Barnett, Moore Create Unbreakable Friendship at K-State

Through the darkest tunnels of Charmeachealle Moore’s life, Dante Barnett has served as an encouraging light of hope. When Barnett was dealt a setback, Moore made sure to return the favor to keep his teammate, best friend and self-described brother from folding. 

“That’s a friendship that can never be broken,” Moore said. “That’s a brother for life.” 

Moore, from Dallas, Texas, and Barnett, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, are both fifth-year seniors for K-State’s defense, only not in the traditional sense. Both initially signed with K-State in 2011 and grayshirted before playing as true freshmen in 2012. Both were hit with adversity in different forms and at different times in their career, knocking them down but not out. 

“You have to have a great deal of respect for young guys in this particular day and age who are willing to stick with something,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder, one win shy of 200 for his career, said of the 24-man senior class as a whole, though his words ring especially true about Moore and Barnett. “For all of them, it has not been the greatest journey in the world. Some of them have gone through more difficult times than others and still managed to never give up and persevere through all of it.”

After playing in the season-opening game of his junior campaign, Moore missed the rest of the season because of a brain tumor that required extensive surgery. Despite extremely long odds, the 6-foot, 228-pound middle linebacker returned to football for the 2015 season. About a month into it, however, his father died tragically of a heart attack. 

Each time Moore’s world began to shake, Barnett provided support.

“He’s helped me through so much,” Moore said. “My brain surgery, he was there; my dad passing, he was there; my mom being sick this year, he was there. He’s always telling me, ‘Man, I know it’s hard but we need you. I love you.’ He tries not to be soft but that’s my brother, so he’s helped me out a lot.”

Watching Moore battle through it all and being there every step of the way, Barnett said, strengthened their relationship greatly. 

“Him going through that, it made our bond stronger, because at times he needed someone to lean on and I felt that I was always there,” Barnett, or “Uncle D” to Moore’s two children, said. “Seeing him going through those things showed me how strong of a person he is and it just helped our bond grow.”

While Moore finished the 2015 season averaging 10.8 tackles per game in the final four contests, his “brother” was painfully forced to watch from the sidelines. In the season-opener, Barnett suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. 

Still, Moore found a way to bring Barnett onto the field. 

“I just told him the same thing he told me. I said, ‘I got you every game.’ I wrote his number on my wrist, wrote it on my tape and had it in my heart,” Moore said. “I told him, ‘I’m doing this for you. You had me when I was down and I have you when you’re down.’”

The two share more than down moments, too. 

Both have already graduated, Moore in December of 2014 with a degree in family studies and human services, and Barnett last May with a degree in kinesiology. Each has a nickname for his longevity at K-State, Barnett’s being “Grandpa” and Moore’s being “Uncle Mike.” 

“We’re both old,” Moore laughed. 

“Every single day, I get the old jokes,” added Barnett. 

Most notably, said senior wide receiver Deante Burton, is their shared passion that has no stopping point. 

“We make fun of Mike all of the time and call him a big baby, but he’s one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. We could be playing dominos or sitting there playing Xbox or something, those two refuse to lose in anything, even if they’re terrible at it,” Burton said. “Mike is terrible at video games. He is the worst person at video games, but he will refuse to lose and he will refuse to concede to anything.”

Barnett is the “same way,” which Burton said he witnessed daily by the strong safety’s attitude last year while injured and unable to play.

“It took everything out of him knowing he couldn’t play. I know him, and if he could have given his arm to play without it, he would’ve done it,” Burton said. “Seeing the passion he exuded being in the locker room and having to be on the sideline — never letting guys get down — it was a rough season for us, but he always did his part to keep everyone up, keep everyone on their feet, never let anyone get down. That’s something that those two have in common and it just passed over on this team. I think it’s helping us and our young guys grow.”

K-State’s defense, which lists eight underclassmen on its two-deep, has significantly benefitted from the veteran presence of Moore and Barnett. 

After allowing 452.2 yards of total offense per game last season, the Wildcats have cut down opponents’ production to 390.3 yards per game that includes the nation’s 13th-best rush defense (110.8 yards per game). K-State is also only giving up 23.7 points a game, an improvement of nearly eight points from last season. 

“When you have two leaders like that, especially as seniors, it’s hard for the young guys not to follow,” Burton said. “I think guys like Duke Shelley, Reggie Walker and Elijah Lee, those guys picked up on that and they’re running with it. That’s something that they’re going to pass down to these younger guys who have amazing talent coming up.”

Lee, who leads K-State with 82 tackles, said the most important lesson Moore and Barnett taught him was that confidence is key. 

“They always tell me, ‘You have the ability to be a good player, now just show that,’ and I stopped thinking so much, because that’s something I did the first couple of years was think a lot,” said the junior linebacker. “This season I just finally let go and just started playing. It feels a lot better whenever you’re in that situation.”

Moore and Barnett, who respectively rank second (58) and third (54) on the team in tackles, have made it a point to create a culture of confidence within this team. For them it was a natural trait, but for the team it was a critical ingredient this season. 

“You can’t win games if you don’t believe in yourself and the things that you can do on the field,” said Barnett, who ranks eighth in K-State history with 174 career unassisted tackles. “That’s just something, especially having the season that we had last year, that I wanted to instill in our whole team. Let the team know that any game we go into, we can win and we all should know that so we can go and get the victory.” 

“I just tell them you have to have confidence in everything that you do,” Moore added. “Nobody works harder than us. We put the time in, so trust the work that you put in and let’s go out there and have fun on the field. That’s exactly what I tell them every time. We’ve done the work, now’s the fun time. Let’s go out and have fun.”

As serious as they are about their journeys and roles on this team, Moore and Barnett still like to have some fun. 

“Jokesters,” senior defensive end Jordan Willis said of the two on Tuesday, after Barnett teasingly asked him if he was going to cry for Senior Day. “No, I’m not,” Willis responded as they both exited the room. 

“They both have good personalities and they keep the defense going out there,” Willis continued. “Those guys keep the energy up. Every week when they give out the Spirit Award, it’s almost always to those two guys. They just keep us energized and ready to go.”

There will be no shortage of energy or emotion when K-State’s two-dozen seniors take the field for the final time at Bill Snyder Family Stadium against Kansas on Saturday at 11 a.m., for the Dillons Sunflower Showdown.

Barnett, who will make his 40th start in a K-State uniform, admitted it will be a “bittersweet” experience, one he came to grips with earlier in the week. 

“I looked around the stadium and said, ‘This is really going to be my last time playing in this stadium,’” Barnett recalled. “I missed a whole year playing in front of our fans last year. So, this year I’ve been grateful to play in front of them in each of our home games. It’s going to be bittersweet playing in front of them one last time.”

Moore, who’s had at least seven tackles in five of K-State’s last six games, looks forward to performing with and in front of a family that’s always had his back.  

“My first game ever in Manhattan, Kansas, it was so unbelievable. The fans that we have are just great… so great. It’s a true blessing,” Moore said. “You never get used to it. Every time I come out I have butterflies in my stomach. When I hear the fans yelling, I just get excited all over again.

“With everything I’ve been through, they’ve been behind me 110 percent. We’re truly a family and I’ll forever bleed purple.”