SWFL athlete climbs towards pro career carrying memory of mom

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Photo by WINK News.
Photo by WINK News.

While he was playing for Dunbar High School, it wasn’t hard to pick out Alvin Barnes’ biggest fan — his mother, Sarah Barnes.

“They would watch the film the next week, and they’re like ‘Alvin, your mom is so loud. We hear her on the video,”’ Barnes said.

After graduation in 2011, Barnes played one season at Hirum College. He then decided to transfer to Arkansas Baptist Community College. But before this season, Sarah sat her family down for some news.

“She was sick before,” Barnes said. “And something kind of like told me it was cancer, but I never really spoke on it. “

She had never been a smoker, but Sarah had stage 4 lung cancer.

“It’s not one of those things you can just grasp onto,” Barnes said. “That I’m going to potentially lose my mom.”

Sarah insisted Alvin continue with his football career. After his first season at Arkansas Baptist, Barnes earned a scholarship to play for Ave Maria. He decided to make a surprise trip home to tell his mother.

“My godparents ended up picking me up. ‘We’re going to Hope Hospice,’” Barnes said. “I’m like ‘Why are we going here?’ and then I go in; I see my mom. She’s so shocked to see me. I’m so shocked to see her, and it’s one of those things like ‘Whatchu doing here?’”

Sarah’s cancer was worse, and she had requested her family not to tell Barnes.

“With him being so far away, no family there, she didn’t want to put all of that on him,” said, Tunisa Barnes, Barnes’ sister. “And him being there with no one to support him or comfort him.”

Barnes’ visit home to see his mother was timely. Because Sarah died the day before Thanksgiving in 2013.

“We were in the room,” Barnes said. “My mom is in the bed, she’s breathing, breathing, breathing. And then all of a sudden, I see the cover rise up. It like paused for like 5 seconds and then it just dropped flat. That was her last breathe.”

Alvin said his final words to his mother were “I love you.”

Knowing she would want him to continue his dream of playing football, Barnes gathered himself and turned his attention toward Ave Maria. But the day before he was supposed to report to school, Barnes was informed his college credits were not accepted.

“It was like ‘What do I do now?’ Barnes said. “I’m fighting depression even more from my mom. Now, I just got football took away from me.”

Giving up was never Barnes style. Having played a few games for the Fort Myers-based Florida Stingrays of the United Football Federation of America, Barnes turned his attention to semi-pro football. And he found his answer in the unlikeliest of places.

“I had a friend; he’s like ‘Hey bro, there’s a team in Brazil that’s looking for a running back,’” Barnes said. “I was like ‘Brazil?’ He was like ‘Yeah, look them up.’”

Barnes played last season in the Sao Paulo Football League. In April, he will travel to Germany in a player-coach role with the team.

No matter where the game takes him, his mother is always on his mind.

“From her cooking, from her baking, from her life lessons, she was just an angel on this Earth,” Barnes said.

Photo shared with WINK News.

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