07/08/08 — Barden remembered

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Barden remembered

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 8, 2008 1:48 PM

WARSAW -- The community of Warsaw and the James Kenan football program lost more than just a football player in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

In Derrick Barden's sudden death, a leader by example, a friend, a quiet student and a coach's dream on the field were all taken away.

Barden, 18, died shortly after midnight after being struck by a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle.

Barden was among a group of people standing outside of Stewart's Creek Apartments when a gunman came out of the wooded area near Matthews Street and opened fire, witnesses told police.

The suspect(s) fired multiple times from a range of 100 to 150 yards. Barden was the only one hit by the gunfire, Warsaw Police Capt. Larry Holland said.

A funeral was held Monday at the KEMBA Headquarters, with a burial that followed in the Devotional Gardens, both locations are in Warsaw.

Though Barden was tragically taken away, the memories of him that have evoked smiles, laughter and tears in recent days from those touched by his life will live on.

"Derrick was just a good kid," James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "He always had a smile on his face and he was always doing whatever it took to be a good football player. He was everything a coach wants in a player."

Known for being reserved and soft spoken, Barden is remembered for using his actions to lead more than his words both at school and among his teammates.

"His mom was saying just the other day that Derrick always got his work done and he never got into trouble," James Kenan defensive coordinator John Avent said. "He was quiet and he did what he had to do. He was a pleasure to be around and he will be sorely missed all around the school."

Barden didn't begin playing football until the ninth grade when he earned on spot on James Kenan's JV squad as a running back. After spending time at linebacker his sophomore season, the 5-foot-7, 185-pound Barden was asked to move to noseguard for the 2007 campaign.

Without a thought toward statistics or his own agenda, Barden agreed without hesitation, simply desiring to do what was best for the team.

"He was a linebacker and he was a good linebacker," Avent Jr. said. "Before last season we needed some defensive lineman and we asked Derrick about switching to noseguard. He never hesitated and he had the ability to completely dominate a game."

Dominate he did, to the tune of 83 tackles, 90 assists, seven sacks, 11 hurries, and a fumble recovery. His efforts earned him 2007 News-Argus Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Barden was a part of a Tigers' defense that allowed less than seven points per game, pitched four shutouts and helped guide James Kenan to a 16-0 record and its first state title in school history.

"He was there everyday, and if you called a play he ran it the way it was supposed to be run," John Avent said. "As a former linebacker he really understood our system and what we tried to do. For a younger kid that was impressive. Other coaches were always asking us, 'can't you take number 52 out of the game'."

Avent Jr. recalled with a chuckle Barden's care-free attitude toward his uniform, a mentality the Tigers' skipper perhaps wishes would catch on with the rest of his players.

"Every Friday before the game we would give out their uniform pants," Avent Jr. said. "We would line them all up and everybody always wanted small pants except for Derrick. He would always say, 'I don't care, just give me something to put on and let's go play.'"

Just weeks ago, the 2008 season was looked upon as one in which James Kenan would return a solid group of talented and experienced players in hopes of defending a state championship.

Those aspirations and dreams still remain, however, with them come the task of carrying on the memory of a fallen teammate whose words were quiet, but whose legacy will speak loudly for many years to come.

"His teammates are sad, they lost a friend," Avent Jr. said. "I hope we can maybe honor Derrick and be like he was. I think he set a good example for all of us."