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Role model for students to retire

NFL, Stanford, Comet great devoted to others

By Malcolm Lastra, sports editor
On May 18, 2011

  • Living legend — Athletic equipment manager Benny Barnes will retire on June 30 after 15 years of employment. George Morin / The Advocate

From rooting for Contra Costa College athletic teams, to lending a helping hand to coaches, to providing advice for student-athletes, Benny Barnes has utilized his high spirits for the good of others.

The athletic equipment manager, who starred in the classroom and on the football field at CCC in 1969 and 1970, will retire from the college after 15 years of employment on June 30. During his tenure at the college Barnes has been a mentor to many student-athletes and coaches in the athletic department, and also to faculty and staff members on campus.

"Sometimes you just have to move to the side," Barnes said. "The athletic department will be thin (next year) due to the budget cuts."

The Richmond native and Rose Bowl champion for Stanford University and Super Bowl champion for the Dallas Cowboys as a defensive back, took over as equipment manager for CCC in 1996 when the former equipment manager J.D. Banks retired.

Barnes worked as a part-time employee for the college until 1997 when he was hired full time.

Since the early 90s Barnes also served as assistant coach for the football team, coaching the running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs, and helping out with the special teams.

"It's going to be a sad day when Benny leaves," athletic trainer Brian Powelson said. Powelson worked side-by-side with Barnes for 15 years in the Men's Locker Room where the Training Room is located.

"I had a good working and personal relationship with him. He's the pillar of this department and the college, and he will be missed."

Through football, Barnes was able to build strong relationships with many players and was looked upon by them as an inspiration and a father figure.

"He's a big part of the school's history as he set a standard for us (the football team)," sophomore defensive back Malcolm Ajayi said. "Benny's (career) is the prime example of where we are trying to go in life."

Several football players described Barnes as someone who always had the right things to say at the right moments, motivating players through tough times such as losing games and issues off the field.

"At one point I wanted to give up on school and he told me that there was no way (to find success) in life but school," Ajayi said. "He always told me to keep my head up."

Other players agreed.

"Barnes was like an extra coach," sophomore defensive back Cameron Fuller said. "I would go to him because he would always spill out advice. He has been a good influence on me. He would tell me to keep my grades up and to not let (poor) grades be the reason I can't move on to the next level."

Coaches also have benefited from Barnes as he shares his wisdom with them while providing them with the right equipment for games.

"Benny is an asset to athletics and to the college as he was very willing to volunteer his time and did a lot of things here," men's basketball coach Miguel Johnson said. "I don't think anyone will be able to fill his shoes."

Johnson also said that Barnes reminds him of Banks as his relationships with players, coaches and faculty were the same as Banks' when he was the CCC equipment manager.

Barnes was inspired by Banks as he said he wanted to emulate the former manager's reputation around the campus.

Banks, who died in 2008, was a former Comet basketball player. He also gave much of his attention to CCC's student-athletes.

"I pattern myself a lot after J.D. Every year that I was here people would always be asking for J.D.," he said.

"J.D. had a lot to give to students. I remember him saying that he would give up anything he had to help the kids."

While Barnes does his best to help others, many people believe that because of his status as an NFL champion and a successful professional athlete, he should not being doing the job that he is doing.

But Barnes said he has enjoyed giving back to his community and what he liked most about his job was being able to see former student-athletes come back to CCC as successful adults.

"What I like most about working here is being able to see kids with jobs and families come back and visit. It's good to see where you had your hand (in someone's life)," Barnes said. "I'll miss this place a lot. It's been fun."

Current CCC football coach Alonzo Carter said, "I remember watching Benny play for the Cowboys as a kid. Prior to coming to CCC, if I didn't receive his blessing to coach here I wouldn't have taken the job."

Most of his colleagues will remember Barnes as not only the equipment manager.

But also someone who was always smiling and willing to offer a helping hand.

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