‘I’ve got to prove myself that I can play’: Milford record-setting QB Bryson Barnes chooses preferred walk-on spot at Utah over FCS scholarship offers
SALT LAKE CITY — All Milford Tigers quarterback Bryson Barnes did on the football field from 2016-2019 was carve up opposing defenses en route to setting a new state record for most touchdown passes in a career as the Tigers won two state championships with him running the show.
Given his production, the idea of Barnes competing on the collegiate level became a possibility more and more as time went on. The question, though, was just how would his abilities translate? Sure, he was a cut above his competition most of the time, but that was the lowest classification of football in Utah. How might he fare against much bigger, stronger and faster athletes?
As his recruiting process unfolded, Barnes received just two scholarship offers from FCS schools, SUU and Western Illinois. On the flip side, he received preferred walk-on offers from Pac-12 schools Utah and Washington State, as well as Utah State.
So the question before the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Barnes became whether or not to take a scholarship offer from a smaller school or try to make it at a bigger school without the promise of a scholarship.
On Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Barnes announced he was choosing the latter, as he accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Utah, with Utah State and Southern Utah being the other finalists.
“The biggest reason was that I wanted to go put myself in a position to compete at the highest level,” he told the Deseret News by phone on Wednesday. “It was like, ‘Do I chase my dream of going and playing for a big Power Five FBS school, or do I chase the scholarship and go down lower?’ I didn’t want to sell myself short.”
Barnes was understanding of the fact that coming from a town of about 1,500 people, coaches at bigger college programs likely felt it wouldn’t be worth their time to give him a close evaluation, but he’s confident in his abilities moving forward.
“I know I can compete with other athletic kids,” he said. “An athlete’s an athlete, whether he’s going to (California national powerhouse) De La Salle or he’s sitting down here in Milford.”
Throughout the process, Utah’s coaches kept reinforcing the idea that they wanted Barnes and believe he can compete. The plan for now is to work to be in the mix at quarterback, but he’s open to changing positions down the road if need be.
No matter where he ends up on the field, Barnes is looking forward to the chance to prove that he can compete.
“I’ve always had something to prove, especially being from a 1A school, and the smallest school in Utah that plays football,” he said. “Now that I’ve got this opportunity to go play, I’ve got to prove myself that I can play.”