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Barkley always wants to take it to next level

FOOTBALL: The Newport Beach resident always knew he wanted to play quarterback, now he’s doing it well for Mater Dei.

November 22, 2007|By Soraya Nadia McDonald

The sandy-haired boy trudged from the shore toward his father’s car, tears pooling in his eyes after enduring one of the greater injustices in his 12-year life.

He was leaving the beach near Peninsula Park after a Saturday of football conditioning.

“What’s wrong?” his father asked.

“Coach said because it’s my first year, I have to play on the offensive line,” he sniffed.

And that was how Matt Barkley almost started his football career as a lineman.

“I’m naturally a pretty big kid,” said Barkley, now 17 years old and 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. “I was a little chubby, but just bigger than normal for most of the kids on the team. And I was a year younger, too, so he tried to put me at lineman. I just broke down, like, no, that’s not me, I’m not going to do that.”

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This is the same Matt Barkley who started at quarterback on Mater Dei High’s varsity team as a freshman. As a junior this year, he’s been rated as one of the nation’s top college football prospects.

Yeah. That guy.

Barkley had tried out for quarterback of the Newport-Mesa Junior All-American Seahawks with the other would-be signal callers. He’d been working with the team’s offensive coordinator, Brent Melbon, now the secondary coach at Orange Coast College, for a few days.

Then came the edict from head coach Rich Sorensen, followed by Barkley’s tear-up. Barkley, Sorensen said, couldn’t be quarterback because it was his first year.

He was crushed.

Barkley had always looked up to John Elway, not the five beefy guys blocking for him.

Melbon lobbied Sorensen for more time to evaluate Barkley, which led to an argument between the two friends.

But Melbon convinced Sorensen to start Barkley anyhow, and the Monarch’s latest freak of nature never played a game on the offensive line.

When Barkley entered the tutelage of Bruce Rollinson, the head football coach at Mater Dei High, the Monarchs’ skipper didn’t hesitate to start Barkley.

In 19 years as a head coach, Rollinson had never started a freshman at varsity quarterback, he said. Even former Monarch and 2004 Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart didn’t start a high school varsity game until his junior year.

Leinart was the Arizona Cardinals’ starting quarterback until he landed on the team’s injured reserve list Oct. 9 because of a broken collarbone.

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