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Flashback Friday: Freddie Barnes shatters all-time reception record

Steve Conner/Icon Sportswire

Nothing hits home quite like reminiscing on the days of former football players, most notably the obscure type.

Maybe it’s just a personal preference. Or perhaps you as well seek comfort in splurging on Noel Devine highlight reels circa the West Virginia era, or mining for some of the prolific passers who strung together video game-type clips from the mid-2000s (Colt Brennan or Graham Harrell, anyone?)

The common pattern among the three aforementioned football phenoms is the lack of attention post-college acclaim. Illustrious careers in college and the inability for that talent to transition over to the next level is one of the most perplexed yet common themes.

Former Bowling Green wide receiver Freddie Barnes may fit the bill to perfection. But rather than dishing flak for his abbreviated spell as an NFLer, his work in college deserves to be withdrawn from the archives and dusted off in this week’s Flashback Friday saga.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Barnes didn’t necessarily establish himself as a household name in his initial collegiate season, nor did he progress with each subsequent year. In somewhat of a peaks-and-valleys type of career, the quarterback-turned-wide receiver began his Bowling Green era with 20 grabs for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the outside and tacked on another 405 yards on the ground to go along with nine touchdowns.

He broke out as a sophomore with 982 yards on 82 receptions but saw a significant dip in production as a junior in 2008. Barnes missed a chunk of the year in transit to only 364 yards and not a lone touchdown to his name.

Then came 2009, Barnes’ senior campaign, when he cemented his legacy into the NCAA record books.


At that time former Houston Cougars wide receiver Marty Hazard held the college record for single-season receptions with 142. Barnes tossed that milestone into the air and dropkicked it into fragmented shards of glass.

The then-senior wide receiver stockpiled 155 receptions, a clip that would be respectable for a wide receiver over a three-year stretch. As it stands, Barnes still occupies the ceiling for catches at the FBS level.

His track record and route to the top is nothing short of breathtaking.

Barnes whipped up double-digit receptions in nine games, caught multiple touchdowns on seven occasions, and eclipsed the 150-yard mark in five contests.

In his final collegiate game — only four catches away from matching Hazard’s record — Barnes hauled in 17 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, exemplifying just what #MACtion is all about.

His portfolio also includes a 22-catch performance (278 yards and three touchdowns) versus Kent State, a Biletnikoff invite, and the sole fact that he left the rest of the country in a cloud of dust as a senior: Barnes caught more than 30 passes than the next-leading receiver.

Unfortunately, Barnes is and will always be labeled as just your prototypical college standout. Not a single team took a shot on the Chicago product, until his hometown Bears scooped him up as an undrafted free agent. At 29 years of age and out of football the last three years, Barnes has yet to record a catch at the professional level.

That doesn’t mean we can’t relive the 155 he amassed in 2009, a record that may dwell in the database for quite some time.

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