The Texas Tech football team has many defensive assets who have made an impact on this year’s roster.
In his junior season, senior defensive lineman Zach Barnes developed on the field and recorded his first solo tackle against Stephen F. Austin on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, according to Tech Athletics. Despite suffering an injury in the game against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 17, 2016, Barnes tallied 11 tackles that year, of which seven were solo tackles.
Now a senior, Barnes is on track to top his numbers from last year as he has already recorded seven total tackles, five solo tackles, two assists and two quarterback hurries, according to Tech Athletics.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has taken notice in Barnes’ improvements on the field, and said Barnes has taken on a leadership role as an upperclassman.
“Zach is doing a nice job. Moving to more of an inside-type player this year,” Kingsbury said. “Been proud of the progress he’s made.”
Barnes is from Loganville, Georgia, and went to Grayson High School, where he became a three-star prospect by ESPN and 247Sports, according to Tech Athletics. He also helped Grayson win the state championship in 2011 while recording nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his senior season.
However, before high school, he trained in taekwondo at Charles Minter Tae Kwon Do Karate, a martial arts program based in Georgia, for five years until he was 13, Barnes said. Now a black belt, he said the discipline, being able to put himself in good positions and staying on balance were helpful attributes he translated well into football.
“Just going through taekwondo, they teach you how to not only just be disciplined in training and doing your exercises correctly, but also in your mind,” Barnes said. “Instead of some people just going out and not really having a goal or set objectives for the day, it taught me that I need to have a goal in every single thing that I do.”
For Barnes, his favorite moments of taekwondo were the competitions and sparring matches, he said. He said his favorite move is the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee’s flying sidekick, and his favorite MMA fighter is Conor McGregor.
Barnes said it was his parents who introduced him to taekwondo to keep him active and teach him discipline.
His father played for the San Diego Charges in the NFL as a defensive tackle before playing for Alabama State, according to Tech Athletics.
Seeing his father compete at the highest level resonated with Barnes. He said his father has always been someone he has admired and strived to be like.
“(He was) my hero growing up, even before I started playing football,” Barnes said. “I wanted to be just like him. I call him after every game, and we talk about the game and just about life. He’s a real good pop. He’s a real good man.”
From his father to taekwondo masters and now coaches, Barnes has had many mentors in his life. He said the leadership he has received through competing is similar on both ends.
“Coaches and masters, they all care about you,” Barnes said. “The methods (of guidance) are a little bit different, but it’s basically the same principle.”
His love for competing that started with swift kicks and uppercuts has now found its way on to the field. Barnes’ strength and size have made him a valuable asset to this year’s defensive unit, Kingsbury said.
“He’s really stuck it out,” Kingsbury said. “Got bigger, stronger, faster throughout his career here and really found a nice role his senior year.”