Forty-two touchdowns, 2,382 passing yards and 11 wins later, Barden officially signed to play for the 49ers Tuesday at Cartersville High in front of friends, family, coaches and teammates.
“They were the ones that probably showed the most interest and fought hard to get me and made me feel like they wanted me,” Barden said of the UNC-Charlotte coaching staff. “It’s a new program and I’m excited about going up there and starting a tradition and starting anew.”
“We’re really excited about where he’s going,” Brooks’ father and Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “He’s really excited. He thinks it’s a great fit, loves the coaching staff up there and loves the opportunities that are before him, not only as a team and as a program, but for him.”
After a 64-year absence of the football program, UNC-Charlotte finished 5-6 in its first season since 1948. The 49ers averaged over 33 points per game this year and their passy-heavy, spread offense intrigues Brooks Barden.
“Yeah, I like the offense,” he said. “I met the offensive coordinator, coach [Jeff] Mullen. He’s a great guy. They had maybe a few transfers, but they were pretty much all redshirt freshmen, so they had a good year with what they had.”
The program will join Conference USA in 2015. Barden will likely redshirt his first year and be eligible by the time the 49ers make the move to their new conference. “We’re going to be playing some good football teams and we’re excited about it,” Barden said.
Barden will attend the school during the spring semester, beginning January, to get a head start on his college courses and to participate in practices with the football team.
“That was something I wanted to do, was get up there and get some extra work in instead of just jumping into it right away,” Barden said.
The 49ers will get one of the best quarterbacks in the state of Georgia, who is coming off a stellar career for the Purple Hurricanes since becoming the starter midway through his sophomore season. He threw for 5,252 yards and 81 touchdowns in the past two seasons. Cartersville went a perfect 20-0 in the regular season during his junior and senior years and 4-2 in the state playoffs. Barden also was a threat in the run game as he accounted for 842 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” he said of his high school career. “I spent four great years with my dad as the coach. I enjoyed that very much. I got to play two years with my brother, [T.J.], where all three of us were all on the field at once. That was a really special thing.”
Of course, Brooks Barden moving on to play college football means Frank Barden will not have a son on his roster for the first time in six years. Brooks’ older brother, T.J., was an offensive lineman for the Canes from the 2008-11 seasons.
“It’s been fun. I’m really proud of [Brooks] and the things we got to do together on the field, like with my older son,” Frank Barden said. “It was a fun six years that I got to have with those two on the field with something that you do for a living in something that they grew up doing and was something that was important to them.
“It’s exciting that they get to go on and Brooks gets to continue to play. It’s going to be fun watching him play. It’s going to be fun sitting in the stands and being on the other side of the fence. Somebody else has got him and it’s going to be fun to watch and see how he develops as a man.”
Brooks will be wearing No. 12 on his jersey at Charlotte, the same number Frank wore during his playing career.
“It was a pretty easy choice for me to go with 12,” Barden said. “For two years, for all of us to be on the field together was a special thing. It really brings your household together and brings your family together a lot closer. I mean, there’s times when it’s not so fun, but in the end, it’s a great thing.”