BOZEMAN — Jody Owens was entering his senior season at Montana State when Eryon Barnett arrived in Bozeman, and knew immediately the fit was right.
“He loved to fish and he loved football,” MSU’s current linebackers coach, like Barnett a native Texan, said Monday of his fallen former teammate. “That mixture made this the perfect place for him.”
Barnett died Saturday from complications of pancreatitis, the Gallatin County Coroner’s report said Tuesday. Barnett was 24.
Barnett played as a sixth-year senior in 2014, starting the 10 games he wasn’t sidelined by pancreatitis. His career was marred by injury and illness but punctuated by brief shows of brilliance. He snatched his first career interception against Eastern Washington this fall, and added one against Idaho State. He also recovered a Black Hills State fumble and forced one against North Dakota.
Montana State coach Rob Ash said Barnett’s passion for football shone through when health struggles could have worn him down. “Eryon fought through so much as a football player, and always showed a resilient spirit that everyone that knew him drew from and admired,” Ash said. “He loved playing this game and loved being part of a program. Eryon had such a bright future in front of him.”
With a relationship that covered both the teammate and coach-player realms, and hailing from the same general region of Texas, Owens knew Barnett well. And what sticks out, he says, was Barnett’s selflessness. “He came here straight from (the University of) Texas, but he never thought he was too good to run down on special teams and never complained (about playing time). He had his (health and injury) problems, but would never let anyone feel sorry for him. That goes to toughness and resilience, which Coach (Rob Ash) talks about all the time, and which is so important to being a Bobcat.”
Upon transferring from Texas, Barnett was reunited with former Euless Trinity High School teammates including DeNarius McGhee, Tray Robinson and Na’a Moeakiola. Barnett had a gift for spanning geographical and other differences, Owens said. “The first thing you always saw when he came around was his smile. Guys loved being around him. He kept everybody together.”
Barnett is survived by a son, Beckett Jace Woolard-Barnett, 11 siblings, his parents and step-mother, two grandmothers, and many others. A Celebration of Life is scheduled for 11 am on Monday, July 13, in Irving, Tex. Tray Robinson and his wife Gabby have established a fund to help the family with expenses at www.gofundme.com/Eryon-Barnett.
— MSU Sports Information