NFL player, Covington native, returns to give back to Boys & Girls Club

COVINGTON, Ky. — Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes made a full turn.

While accepting the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in February, Super Bowl champion Andrew Whitworth recalled a moment last season when another player spoke about the importance of his job in Cincinnati. That player was Barnes, a rookie who spent time with Whitworth at the Covington Boys & Girls Club as a child.

“He said, ‘Hey man, you’re not gonna remember me…you hung out with me when you were a young player in Cincinnati at the Boys & Girls Club, and that meant the world to me,'” recounted Whitworth.” He goes, ‘You know what, the main thing I wanted to say, Whit, I did it. I did it in the NFL, Big Whit.'”

Barnes, Detroit’s fourth-round pick, was in the crowd during Whitworth’s acceptance speech.

“You know he was just here to do what he loved, which was to be around kids and make kids smile,” Barnes said. “I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me.”

Now that his first NFL season is on the books, Barnes hopes to do the same. He returned to that same Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday, hoping to have a similar impact to what Whitworth had on him.

“As soon as I stopped I just smiled and was like, ‘This is crazy,'” Barnes said. “I walked through the doors and just saw the smiles on the staff’s faces, the kids’ faces and I was like, ‘Wow, back to my old playground.'”

Barnes said he got chills visiting the facility, remembering how he used to run through the hallways as a child.

“Honestly, I don’t know where I would be (without the Boys & Girls Club),” Barnes said. “I’m emotional because growing up and seeing the things I’ve seen in my life…knowing that I had that, and that was the Boys & Girls Club – to be able to come here and I had a meal every days from here, I need to be surrounded by friends, I need to be active, I need to be a kid.”

And he met an influential figure in Whitworth.

Barnes then played high school football at Holy Cross before going to Purdue. He said he hopes to have even a small impact on the kids he sees at the club because he knows what it can do.

“You don’t know the impact you’re going to have on these kids,” Barnes said. “And I just want to be able to pay it forward and be there for those kids – not for my benefit, but for theirs.”

Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes returns home to Cincinnati to pay it forward

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