Home Town Hero Comes Home

9 January 2001

By Bamaslammer - Birmingham Bolts Co-Reporter

(Birmingham) - It was 1993 and my friend, a season ticket holder at Alabama, left me two tickets he wasn't going to use against Ole Miss. Alabama was a run oriented team coached by a man who preached defense and the running game. But the Ole Miss Rebels had different plans that day. The Rebel defense shut down the Alabama running game and by the half it was clear that the Tide was in trouble. Jay Barker was the Quarterback that day and hadn't done much other than hand off in his career thus far. But Jay hadn't lost a game he had started at Alabama and he wasn't going to quit now. He exploded for over 200 yards passing and took home the win.

Years later in a pre-season game for the New England Patriots I saw Jay take over late in the game. The Patriots hadn't played well that day but Jay was about to light it up. He took the snap and rolled right and launched a cannon shot down the sideline. The receiver had a step and Jay hit him in stride for a long touchdown. I thought for sure Jay had made the team on that one play, but it didn't turn out that way as he was cut the next day. Jay made one more shot at the NFL with the Carolina Panthers but was again cut. Not finding success in the NFL, Jay headed north of the border to Canada and the Toronto Argonauts. Jay didn't get to throw many passes for Gene Stallings at Alabama but in Canada with only three downs it's pretty much a fire drill on every play. He competed against another former SEC quarterback in Kerwin Bell alternating much of the 98 and 99 seasons. Injuries have slowed his progress since.

On the Paul Finebaum radio show months ago the new GM of the Bolts, Tim Berryman was asked about Jay Barker and he said simply "We have talked to him". It would seem a perfect match. Jay still lived locally and had business and marketing interests here. But Jay was one of the many players locked into contracts with the CFL. The CFL contracts don't expire until after the XFL season is underway and the CFL refused to release the players early. Somehow from then until now Jay obtained his release from Toronto and after clearing waivers in the CFL Birmingham jumped on the QB. A spot was left open when QB Jon Nielsen did not show up for camp, but something tells me they would have made a spot if none existed.

Truthfully Jay has an uphill climb to earn a starting spot. Starting QB Casey Weldon has been in all the preseason camps and is ahead of Barker at this point. Signing Barker is a home run for the local management who are grasping at straws to convince a skeptical Birmingham area that the XFL is for real.

The Bolts are still not up to their maximum of 70 players. One would have to wonder if there are any more tricks up Tim Berryman's sleeve.