Editor’s note: This profile on Jake Barkley ’03 is the first in a 13-part series written by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. Read a new profile every weekday in tommiesports.com.
For more information or to sign-up online for the induction banquet, click here:
Jake Barkley ’03 admits he was a “nobody” on the St. Thomas track and field team more than a decade ago. “I always needed one more gear to keep going in the 100,” he said. “I would pass everyone at the first 50, but then I would fall behind.”
It’s a good thing Barkley didn’t pin his collegiate sports hopes on track but instead chose football, where he shined as a rare three-time, first-team Division III Academic All-America and a three-time All-Region running back.
In three seasons as a starter, Barkley surpassed 100 rushing yards in 20 games. His career rushing total of 3,969 yards broke St. Thomas and MIAC records at the time, and today he ranks second on the Tommies’ career list and fourth in the MIAC. He scored 33 touchdowns, all in his final 29 games, and finished with 4,644 all-purpose yards.
The biggest accomplishment for Barkley was setting the record for career rushing yards, but there is one game that he remembers.
“It was a different era for football when we were there,” he explained. “We were one of three or four teams in the conference trying to be competitive with St. John’s. We had no crowning team achievement, but in one game against Bethel, we pounded them. We kicked them with our defense.”
The Tommies lost the conference title to Bethel in his freshman year, but as a senior they came back to defeat the Royals 49-25. “That was my favorite moment,” he said.
Although he is proud of his records and induction into the St. Thomas Hall of Fame, Barkley said the honor represents the work of the entire offensive line.
“It feels good to get recognition for years of hard work and lots of time, sweat and sacrifice put into it,” he said. “Hopefully my teammates will see that it’s an ode to all of them for their hard work, too. You need those big boys to block hard for you; otherwise the running back can’t do his job.”
After playing with many of the same guys for three years, Barkley considered the team a family and called his teammates his “brothers.”
“Football is the ultimate team sport where everyone has to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing in order to make the play work,” he said. “There’s a feeling that you’re willing to do anything for your brothers and they’ll do the same for you. I’ll never forget that.”
The team was there for Barkley on the field, but studying in the library was a solo effort. In high school, he was valedictorian in a class of 496 at Robbinsdale Armstrong. He received an appointment to the Air Force Academy, and Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth also contacted him for football. He may not have had the right connections to get admitted to an Ivy League school, but St. Thomas worked out well for him.
“I knew I would get some playing time at St. Thomas and I also wanted to get into business and get an education,” he said.
Entrepreneurship especially interested Barkley after running his own lawn service as a teenager. He sold it when he got into college, but as a senior he began to develop two new businesses that he still owns and operates today: Barkley Landscape and Design Group, and Metro Stoneworks.
When he’s not running businesses, Barkley takes care of his boys (Owen, 7; Liam, 4; and Conor, 6 months) with wife Maureen ’00 in Plymouth. He hopes his sons can see the Hall of Fame honor as something to look up to and something to strive for.
Barkley remains an active St. Thomas football fan and brings his boys to as many home games as he can. Last December, he and his dad even traveled to Virginia to watch the Tommies play in the Division III championship game.
Family is important to Barkley, and he is thankful for their support and going to nearly every game while he was at St. Thomas. And again, Barkley wants to single out the offensive line.
“It’s really special to share this with those guys,” he said.
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball