Nearly a full season on the sideline brought out a new passion for football in Grandview’s James Barrientes.
The wide receiver took a hit while leaping to catch a pass in last season’s opener against Kiona-Benton, resulting in whiplash that momentarily knocked him unconscious and caused the second concussion of his career. When symptoms persisted and doctors advised Barrientes to sit out, he chose to focus on making the most of his senior season.
Those efforts stood out to second-year coach Darren Mezger, who said Barrientes has become one of the team’s best leaders. He sets an example by working hard and encouraging others to do the same in all aspects of their lives.
“It begins with the grades and your schoolwork and so you have guys you see that are failing their classes and can’t participate in a game,” Barrientes said. “You just want to help them out and get them in the game.”
Mezger said thanks to that mindset Grandview’s fielding a deep team with several players who struggled to stay eligible in past seasons. The Greyhounds will be led by a senior class featuring strong role models like Barrientes and fourth-year quarterback Rocco Parrish.
An ongoing group chat ensures they all hold each other accountable and often met up in the weight room or on the track for conditioning sessions during the offseason. Their bond strengthened at the Eastern Oregon team camp in June, where Mezger saw Barrientes stand out on both sides of the ball.
“He’s really committed to the team,” Mezger said. “He’s been vocal. He’s been a positive role model.”
A 4.6-second 40 and good chemistry with Parrish makes Barrientes a valuable weapon, particularly on short routes. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound receiver expects to play out wide and in the slot, where he could receive the ball on laterals and short bubble screens.
But Mezger said Grandview also expects to employ multiple formations and plenty of wide receivers to keep Barrientes fresh on defense. He went to the University of Washington for a skills camp as a cornerback in late June to learn what it takes to match up against taller, talented receivers.
“You’ve just got to give them that space and you’ve just got to know when to jump because those quarterbacks will throw those high balls,” Barrientes said. “So it’s just knowing your football knowledge and also just playing smart.”
He’s likely to be more aware than most defenders about the importance of avoiding illegal and dangerous head-on collisions. Those past injuries remain in the back of his mind, but they won’t keep him from giving maximum effort on the field.