Fred Barnett did some very impressive things on the hard, unenviable playing surface at Veterans Stadium from 1990 until 1996. He consistently produced on a team that had little focus on the offense, especially the wide receivers
In High School, Barnett did not play until his senior year out of respect for his mother's concerns for his health and safety.
Barnett played at 200 lbs. and stands at 6'0". I can't recall his exact workout measurables coming out of college, but I believe he ran a sub 4.5 second forty yard dash. I know he had an incredible vertical leap, which I believe measured 44" to 46".
His leaping ability and speed were obvious in his big play nature and aerobatic catches. Barnett made fantastic plays along the sidelines, leaping over defenders and fighting for balls and opportunities all over the field.
Here's a statistical summary of what Barnett did during his tenure in Philadelphia and throughout his eight-year career:
Barnett was sensational in his 1990 rookie season. He provided an offensive spark along with fellow rookie Calvin Williams that was definitely missing since Mike Quick had been in his prime.
Barnett scored eight touchdowns and averaged 20 yards per reception on 36 catches.
In 1991, Barnett continued to improve even as aging Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp, and Brad Goebel filled in for the injured Randall Cunningham.
In 1992 with Cunningham's return, Barnett recorded his first 1,000 yard season and only pro bowl selection.
A knee injury ended Barnett's 1993 campaign early, and he was snubbed of a second pro bowl appearance and comeback player of the year award in 1994, when he tallied his career best numbers in receptions and yardage.
In six defensive oriented seasons with the Eagles, Barnett became the fifth all-time leading receiver for the franchise.
All statistics aside, Barnett was exciting.
He made big plays in clutch moments and he did it with tasteful style. Without a doubt, his 95 yard touchdown in his rookie season was one of the most remarkable plays in Eagles history.
On third and 14 from their own five yard line, the offensive line broke down true to form.
At the tail end of magically ducking Bruce Smith and making some other fancy gumby-like moves in the end zone to avoid an apparent safety, Randall Cunningham rolled out, and, from five yards deep in his own end zone, heaved a ball to the fifty yard line to a covered Fred Barnett.
Barnett ripped the ball down and away from the defender and completed the miracle by converting the reception into a 95 yard jaw-dropping touchdown.
On PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Barnett shared his memory of that play:
"The play called for me to run a clear route, or a 'go route' to clear the middle of the field," Barnett recalled.
"I ran 60 yards and actually stopped. When I saw Randall come out of a pile, he started pointing to me.
"So I kept running and literally saw the ball appear from out of the sky. When I jumped to get the ball my defender fell down and I scored. But that play didn't surprise me because Randall had the athletic ability to come up with anything."
That was the most remarkable play I have ever witnessed as an Eagles enthusiast, but Barnett had already won-me-over (the first Eagles jersey I bought was No. 86—Fred Barnett), and he continued to make dazzling plays throughout his career in Philadelphia that sealed his legacy as one of the great receivers in Eagles history.
I can also remember an amazing leaping catch against the Saints in 1992 (if memory serves), in the front corner of the end zone.
Barnett went airborne, high jumper style, cleared the defender and six feet or so in the air while parallel to the ground, reached back, and snatched the ball as he plummeted into the end zone—amazing.
Those are the kinds of plays that football heroes are made of.
When the Eagles needed someone to make a play, Barnett was one of the guys that teammates and fans could depend on not letting them down.
He was also a guy that would turn an inch into a mile. Barnett could exploit running room with great vision and speed on the field. He could go all-the-way at any time.
In 2005, Gary Kravitz of PhiladelphiaEagles.com interviewed the then 38-year-old Barnett, who claimed he was still running sub 4.5 second 40 yard dash times, and that he could still beat a bump-and-run.
Barnett seemed serious about wanting to play football opposite Terrell Owens and Reid.
Probably should have given him a call.
Barnett was working out to compete in the Penn Relays at that time.
He also talked about the pressure that Buddy Ryan put on him and his fellow receivers as he recalled a classic line from the no-nonsense coach, "catch the ball or you're fired."
Fred Barnett played with the kind of heart that Philadelphia responds to, and, in acknowledgement of that simple truth, Barnett said, "if you play in Philly, you better produce and make plays...if we lost I would be in tears...I know what this sport means to the City of Philadelphia...that's why I feel I had a great relationship with the fans because I played Eagles football with a passion."
Could anything be more true?
Barnett's class transcended football. His philanthropy and commitment to the Philadelphia area should make him a legend in and of itself.