LAWTON — Jalin Barnett wants to defy the stereotype of offensive linemen.
“It kind of feels good knowing I’m not the average lineman — the slow guy,” he said. “I’m not the dumb guy either. I can catch linebackers, take the right angles. I can pull and hit people.”
The Lawton offensive guard is neither slow nor anything close to dumb. He’s athletic enough — even at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds — that the Wolverines regularly use him to pull and take on linebackers to open up space in the running game.
He’s an honor student whose grandparents have given him a strong work ethic.
Barnett is one of the most coveted offensive linemen in the country. He’s also No. 2 on The Oklahoman’s Super 30 ranking of the top recruits in the state for the 2015 class.
Most Saturday mornings, Barnett rises early and immediately gets to work.
His grandparents spend the week cleaning a pair of Lawton restaurants, and his grandfather is a janitor at Lawton High.
So Saturday is the day they clean their house.
“He works pretty good at it,” Michael Burse, Jalin’s grandfather, said. “He’s a hard worker. I always told him, ‘Jalin, we like going out there and seeing you play and stuff, but those grades are your main thing.’”
Burse won’t have Barnett helping out much more.
After this season, he’ll head on to play college football, likely at either Oklahoma or Arkansas.
“My family is there for me,” Barnett said. “My grandma, she does a lot for me. Her and my grandpa, they get up and work every night. I appreciate that. They’re just putting it all out for me so I can do something for myself.”
Lawton coach Randy Breeze has known Barnett since he was in sixth grade, after his grandmother visited Lawton to ask Breeze a question.
“She comes up to me and says, ‘Coach, can you help me? I’ve been looking for size 14 cleats for my grandson,” Breeze recalled recently.
“What grade’s he in?” Breeze asked.
When he found out how young Barnett was, Breeze was floored. Breeze helped find some shoes that would fit Barnett.
Since then, Barnett’s talent has caught up to his immense size.
“When you dominate a linebacker on the back side as a 300-pound tackle, now that’s impressive,” Breeze said. “That’s the big thing that separates him from the others.”
Recently, two SEC coaches came to Lawton to recruit Barnett. Both told Breeze that Barnett was the top lineman in the country on their board and would start immediately.
Barnett recently cut his recruiting list to Oklahoma and Arkansas, but said he would take the full five official visits before making his decision mid-season. In addition to the finalists, he’ll visit Tennessee and Oregon State.
“It’s been fun,” Barnett said of the recruiting process. “I feel kind of privileged to have these people want to take me in and be a part of their family.”
Burse doesn’t hide his preference.
“I like OU,” he said. “Plus it’s closer for us to drive every Saturday. But it’s like I’ve been telling Jalin all the time, you’re the one who’s going to have to make that decision because you’re the one who’s going to have to lay your head there every night. You’re going to have to be comfortable.”