DALLAS — You couldn’t help it, former Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett pointed out by phone Wednesday night, but love it.
“I will love him forever and I will miss him,” teammate Greg Ellis added via text message. “He embodied what it means to be humble.”
Coaches, players and current members of the Cowboys organization mourned the death of former running back Marion Barber after he was found dead in his apartment on Wednesday. He was 38 years old.
They remembered a player who was as calm and respectful off the pitch as he was physical and punitive.
“A rare guy!” Garrett continued in a text tribute. “His physical style and relentless spirit were contagious! Shown in the way he practiced. Shown in how he performed in games! It was impossible not to notice #24! He jumped off the tape.
The Cowboys selected Barber in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played the first six of his seven NFL seasons with the organization, rushing for 4,358 yards and 47 touchdowns while carrying the Cowboys star .
Garrett became the team’s offensive coordinator in 2007, when Barber rushed for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns despite not starting a game. It was his second straight year with double-digit scores. “Marion the Barbarian” was born.
“There were so many games,” Garrett said. “I remember countless races where he would keep the game alive. Say it’s a sweep to one side and you’re hit and there’s nothing there and you’d be like “get down deep, reverse the field”. Six guys were tackling him, he was shaking them. It was amazing.
“He always sought contact. He was still carrying the blow. His style of play was contagious.
Ellis, whose 12.5 sacks earned him a 2007 Pro Bowl selection with Barber, recalled Barber’s “exceptional run” to avoid a safety against the New England Patriots in 2007. The 65 yards and Barber’s touchdown rushed in a 45-35 season-opening win over the New York Giants put the Cowboys on course to finish tied for the NFC’s best record over the course of the 2007 season.
Just one of many contributions on and off the pitch from “one of the most generous people I have ever met”.
“He never complained about anything,” Ellis said. “One of the best teammates I’ve had the chance to play with. I will love him forever and miss him.
Barber died nine days before his 39th birthday.
“As a great player as Marion was, he was an even better person,” Garrett said. “He loved his teammates and his coaches! His teammates and coaches loved him! Anyone who had the great fortune to surround him knows the impact he had on everyone in his life. He made us all better!
“Marion was so genuine, so selfless, so generous. He would run through the wall for you and he was always supporting you! I love Marion Barber and I will miss him very much!
“Brill and I are so saddened by this news and send our sincere condolences to the Barber family and all who loved him.”