SE: Football Friday: Dante Barnett, Facing the Spotlight

By Kelly McHugh-Stewart

This year is K-State senior safety Dante Barnett’s year to shine.

The face of the Wildcat defense, Barnett was named to this year’s Preseason All-Big 12 squad and was also placed on the watch list for five national awards. He is a team captain, he is among the most experienced players on the talented defense, and he will be looked upon to make a big impact for the Cats this season.

But there’s one more thing you should know about Barnett… he’s modest.

“I don’t really think about it that much,” said Barnett when asked about being the face of K-State football this season. “I don’t try to overthink situations. I just want to improve every day and help my team.”

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you Barnett is more interested in earning team success than earning individual accolades. He’s a team player through and through.

“That’s just the kind of kid he is – he’s humble. He has a lot of confidence in his ability, but he’s a humble player,” said Wildcat defensive coordinator Tom Hayes. “If you’re a good player, you don’t have to talk, you don’t have to go and build your own resume because it’s already out there. You’re building it by your actions on the field and that’s the kind of kid he is. I’m proud of Dante. He’s doing a good job.”

Barnett is coming off of a junior campaign in which he recorded 77 tackles, defended 11 passes and snagged three interceptions. He earned 2014 Second Team All-Big 12 honors by the league’s coaches while also being named an All-Big 12 performer by ESPN.com and Phil Steele.

Overall, he has a defensive-best 28 career starts and has played in every game (39 total) since his freshman year of 2012.

“Before I start the next season, I always review my last season,” explained Barnett on his mindset heading into his final year with the Wildcats. “I like to think about where I was and how far I’ve come. Doing that has shown me the progress I’ve made over these past few years. I think I’ve grown a lot.”

Barnett really has grown a lot in his time at K-State.

His first big call to duty came as a wide-eyed freshman. Barnett was thrown into a starting role after former Wildcat safety and four-time All-Big 12 recipient Ty Zimmerman was sent to the sidelines with injury. In his first game as a starter at Baylor in 2012, Barnett notched a career-best 14 tackles and followed that game with four stops in the Wildcats’ 2012 Big 12 Championship-clinching victory over the Texas Longhorns.

And he’s only continued to grow since then. In 2013, he earned the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Defensive MVP award after carding eight tackles and returning a 51-yard interception in the Wildcats’ win over Michigan. In 2014, he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after defending four passes in K-State’s shutout victory over Texas.

He accepted responsibility when put in a tough situations before, so there should be no doubt that heading into his senior season, surrounded by hype, he will do the same.

“It is experience, doing the right things with the right attitude and having that kind of value system that is significant in our program. When Dante got on the field, he accepted the responsibility of what we expect from a young guy,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder about Barnett’s path through the program. “He has made consistent, confident growth throughout his time. He has developed a confidence, which l like as well. With that confidence comes the leadership that he has been able to provide.”

As a two-time team captain, Barnett is not taking his responsibility lightly. He may be a quiet leader and let his game do the talking, but he knows his younger teammates are watching and wants to make sure he is there for them.

“Our leadership is going to be big, it has to be big because our fellow teammates are looking up to us,” said Barnett of himself and his fellow captains. “When they don’t know what to do, they’re going to look at us and see what we’re doing. So I feel like I’ve always got to be on my game and set a good example for my teammates.”

As fall camp winds down, Barnett will take the field and kick off his final season with the Wildcats on Saturday, September 5, when K-State opens its 2015 slate against South Dakota. The game will begin at 6:10 p.m., in Bill Snyder Family Stadium and be shown world-wide on K-StateHD.TV.

“You can’t spend four years somewhere and not have it be a huge part of your life,” said Barnett of his time as a Wildcat. “K-State, it means everything to me. I’ve watched myself grow as a person, grow as a man, it’s been really great – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart, or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.