The Dallas Cowboys star played seven years in the league, amassing 4,780 rush yards, 1,330 receiving yards and 60 total touchdowns in 99 career games. He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 after rushing for a career-best 975 yards.
Since Barber’s death has gone public, there has been an outpouring of messages from his former teammates and coaches.
“I forever will love and miss him,” former Cowboys’ defensive end Greg Ellis told USA Today’s Jori Epstein via text. “He epitomized what it means to be humble … One of the best teammates I have been blessed to play with.”
An All-Time Golden Gopher Great
A Minnesota native, Barber played at Wayzata High School for coach Brad Anderson. Barber earned All-State honors his senior year with the Trojans as a running back and defensive back. He ran for 1,778 yards and 18 touchdowns that season with 10 interceptions.
“I can’t think of another player I’ve coached who was more well-liked by his teammates and his opponents,” Anderson said to Fox 9 News in Minneapolis. “He was just so good, he didn’t have to do anything dirty or cheap or anything like that to win. He could just be himself.”
Barber went on to play college ball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 2001-04. He rushed for 3,276 yards and 35 touchdowns in four seasons. In 2003 and 2004, Barber and teammate Laurence Maroney became one of the best running back duos in college football history.
Barber was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Cowboys. He instantly became a fan-favorite in Dallas for his hard-nosed running style, which helped him earn the nickname “Marion the Barbarian.”
Former Coach Shares Memories of Barber
Jason Garrett – who coached the Cowboys during a handful of Barber’s seasons there – had fond memories of what the running back could do with the ball in his hands.
“A rare guy,” Garrett said, also in a text to Epstein. “It showed up in how he practiced and how he played in games. It was impossible not to notice #24 – he leaped off the tape.
“There were so many plays I can remember; just countless runs where he would keep the play alive. Six guys would [try to] tackle him and he’d shake them off. It was incredible. He always sought out contact and delivered the blow. His physical style and relentless spirit were infectious.”
Like the others, Garrett had only glowing things to say about the kind of man Barber was.
“As great a player as Marion was, he was an even better person,” Garrett said. “He loved his teammates and his coaches and his teammates and coaches loved him. Anyone who had the great fortune to be around him knows the impact he made on all the people in his life. He made us all better.”
Garrett’s final sentiment: “I absolutely love Marion Barber and will miss him very much!”