He wakes up at 6:45 a.m. every weekday, bruised and beaten from the day before. He eats a hearty breakfast to get ready for the long school day ahead. His day, however, is much different from his classmates’ schedules at the University of Oregon, because he’s not heading to class.
He is heading to football practice.
Once he finishes breakfast, Kenjon Barner hops in his bright orange Chevy Camaro and heads to the Casanova Center. Practice promptly begins at 8:30 a.m. inside the Moshofsky Center, which neighbors Autzen Stadium, home of the Oregon Ducks.
After lifting weights, running drill and watching film for nearly three hours, Barner has no time to rest. The workouts he’d completed during practice would normally destroy someone of his stature — 5’11”, 180 lbs. — but he stays strong.
Once practice is over, he heads to class and applies that same work ethic toward his pre-journalism major. Throughout the day, he makes his way to the Jaqua Center for study hall and finds time to visit with friends before heading to his other classes.
As Barner navigates his way around campus, other students stop him and ask for photos and autographs. He doesn’t mind, he keeps a smile on his face and happily obliges.
After all, his parents, Gary and Wilhelmenia Barner, installed the morals in him as he grew up in a house with five brothers and his sister in Riverside, Calif.
Growing up in a supportive environment is what made the Ducks running back that he is today.
“It was awesome — I always had someone to bother and run from,” Barner said. “But on a serious note, having all of my brothers and sis there was great to get the love and support that they all showed and have for me.”
He mentioned that growing up with such a big family made him feel like royalty because he was always with someone and they would protect him from any harm.
“It was like being a prince of a country. I was always protected and never went without my parents and [my] siblings would give me clothes off their back to make sure I had some,” he said.
Teammate Josh Huff, a sophomore wide receiver, feels the positive vibe Barner gives off to everyone around him.
“Every since I made it here in the summer of 2010, Kenjon has been like [the] big brother I’ve always asked for,” Huff said. “He is a very loving, spiritual person. He cares more about you than himself, and he is probably the most respected dude on the team in my eyes because of the things he does.”
Another teammate and friend, senior safety Eddie Pleasant, had great things to say about him as well.
“He is a great family member, great teammate, but more than that: a great friend,” Pleasant said.
Barner displays his spirituality every game day by writing “In GOD I Trust” on his wrist tape. He also listens to country music to get ready.
“Man I listen to country music before games,” Barner said with a laugh. “It just puts me in a different zone.”
His faith in God has helped him though a lot in his life, including losing his 16 year-old cousin Ronald.
“That was tough, because I feel like he would still be alive today if I had made a different decision,” Barner said. “We were close and until this day I still feel like I could have changed the outcome of what happened.”
It’s a topic so sensitive, he doesn’t’ like to share details about it.
Faith also greatly helped Barner through a dark time in his life when he felt like he’d lost who he really was, and wasn’t living a lifestyle that could make his family proud.
“I had become someone completely different from [who] my parents had raised me to be, and I didn’t know who I was and no one really knew the real me,” Barner said.
“What they knew and [saw] from me wasn’t really me at all, and that caused me to lose some very important people in my life — some people I won’t ever get back because of things that [I] did.”
Despite his turbulent past, Barner remains grateful for everything that he has been through because, in the end, it made him a better man.
“Losing those people opened my eyes a lot and made me reevaluate myself and who I was becoming,” Barner said.
“At the end of the day, I’m thankful for those people, because without them I probably [would] have never seen myself drifting away towards some nonsense.”