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Utes hero Bryson Barnes is just a small town quarterback who hit it big

Posted at 1:18 PM, Sep 07, 2023

MILFORD, Utah — Last week was a big one for Utah's Bryson Barnes. Not only did the quarterback help lead the Utes to a nationally televised win over Florida, but after the game, the former walk-on was awarded a scholarship.

But how did the small town boy from Milford turn into a Power 5 starting quarterback?

"Everybody around here hears Bryson Barnes name and they all look up their eyes get all big," said Thane Marshall, the head football coach at Milford High School.

These days, Bryson's living every football player's dream; a journey his parents, Chris and Stacey, say started when their son was in fifth grade

"We would video the games and he would go home, this is in the fifth grade, and he would analyze every play; what everybody did right, what everybody did wrong, as far as the execution, he was just wired for that," said Chris.

Before Barnes became a household name among Utes fans, he was breaking state records underneath the friday night lights at Milford. While on the field, he broke the state record for passing touchdowns and led his team to two state championships.

"The kid was just a phenomenal study of the game," said Marshall, "he went above and beyond any preparation of any kid I've ever coached"

While he and Milford were winning, playing at a 1A high school came with a stigma.

"Frankly, we couldn't get him recruited because he was 1A," Marshall recalled.

"That's when you sit him down and tell him, "Bryson, they're not faster than you, they don't jump higher than you, they don't throw further than you, athletically, you're right there with them, so go get it," said Chris Barnes.

By the end of his high school career, Bryson had a couple scholarship and preferred walk-on offers from schools in and out of state.

"I wanted him to reach what we believed was his potential, but there was that side of me that was like, go get the full ride scholarship that you were offered," shared Stacy Barnes.

"He was always going to take a chance on himself and go to the biggest and best place that was going to challenge him, and The U was the place to do that," said Bryson's wife, Brittlyn.

Barnes made his college debut in 2021 and stepped up in the Rose Bowl after starting quarterback Cam Rising went down with an injury.

"I think I kind of went numb," remembered Chris. "We were playing Duschene and Beaver last year, now we're in the Rose Bowl with Ohio State."

Just 12 months later, a similar opportunity arose at this year's Rose Bowl.

"When cam went down, I was nervous for him on that one," said Chris.

With Rising on the sidelines 8 months later, Bryson made a season opening start in one of the biggest Utes games in the program's history.

"We knew he was prepared to go in and we were so excited to see him get out on the field and do what we thought he could do," said Stacey.

What he did was immediately thrill the Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd by hitting Money Parks on a 70-yard bomb on Utah's first offensive play of the game.

"I just remember Bryson taking the snap and Bryson taking the pass and I couldn't hear anything," Brittlyn said. "I was just like, 'Oh, my gosh,' and as soon as the receiver caught the ball it was like everything turned back on."

Barnes was a standout against the Gators, throwing for 159 yards in the 24-11 win, but being awarded the scholarship afterwards was truly life-changing.

"For a walk-on to get a scholarship, it's not the easiest thing," said Brittlyn. "It was never about the scholarship, he wanted to be here, and he loves it and he wanted to prove himself; definitely will help not having to have him work and get a part time job."

Bryson's story is now an inspiration to those athletes who've been overlooked in their careers.

"His dream was to play Division I football and he made himself to get there," said Marshall.

But Barnes's story is also a testament to what can happen to those who believe in themselves and work hard.

"I asked him about going from the smallest school that plays football to a Power 5," Chris shared, "and he said, 'It's just football, dad.'"