STILLWATER — An uneasy feeling swept over Calvin Barnett, the kind of stomach-dropping emotion commonly felt when a student is called to the principal's office.
He essentially had been. Following Oklahoma State's loss at Arizona last September, Barnett was notified that coach Mike Gundy wanted to discuss the three personal fouls — two on the same play — the defensive tackle had committed in his second game as a Cowboy.
“Getting that call, when you're new,” Barnett recalled, “It's like, ‘Oh, man.'”
Both player and coach say now that meeting was exclusively positive. And Barnett cleaned up his act, committing just two personal fouls during the rest of a 2012 season that ended with him being named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
Now, Barnett is viewed as an important leader for the 2013 defense.
“He loves to play football, and he brings an air about him when he plays,” Gundy said. “And more importantly, he does it in practice. So, that's what allows him to be a leader.”
That's rare for junior college transfers, Gundy said, because those players often simply aren't on campus long enough to form bonds or make lasting impacts on teammates. And Barnett's growing leadership role may seem odd to some outsiders, because those early examples of out-of-control play did somewhat overshadow on a strong first season where he consistently plugged the middle, frequently got in the opposing backfield and finished with 30 tackles (8.5 for loss), one sack, four quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
Because of OSU's policy that does not allow first-year players to speak to the media, Barnett could not publicly explain his actions, express remorse or vow he'd attempt to change following that Arizona game.
But he could do all of the above in that meeting in Gundy's office.
“He accepted the responsibility and said, ‘OK, I know exactly what you're talking about,'” Gundy said. “Sometimes they do that and sometimes they don't. If they don't, then it's always an issue because they don't ever really think it's their fault.
Added Barnett: “(Gundy) was just letting it be known that I needed to change some things. I let him know, ‘Yeah, of course.' I'm not OK with costing the team that many yards. Myself, I need to change that if I was going to be part of that defense.”