Running down football field instead of wrong path inspired Ragin Cajun player to aim higher

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Athletes are more than just a number. They’re more than just a jersey–several of them have stories to tell beyond the field. 

Hardships they overcame thanks to their sport. 

News Ten Sports Emily Giangreco has the story of how one Louisiana football player found positivity through all of life’s challenges. 

Matthew Barnes is a tight end for the Ragin Cajuns.

There were several times in his life where he could have gone down a dark path, but instead, he always found the light. This is his story in tonights segment of beyond the jersey. 

“You can take this path. Football it did save me, ultimately.”

Matthew Barnes faced a lot of adversity growing up.

“My mom went to prison when I was 5.” 

On top of being separated from his mother, his father abandoned his family.

“I just didn’t understand why somebody would leave your life.”

Barnes moved in with his aunt and uncle, and when his mother was finally released, instead of harboring anger, he gave forgiveness. 

“I think you deserve second chances. I didn’t really understand what happened but i just knew that was my mother and that’s who I came from.”

When you talk about giving second chances do you ever consider trying to find your father and give him a second chance?

“You know what, actually until you just said that I hadn’t really been living by that.”

Barnes says he’s willing to take that next step with his  father but that growing up, there was never a void there because of football.

“Middle school, high school, college coaches, all of them have been father figures to me so the whole time i had a father.”   

Going down the field instead of going down a wrong path is what helped Barnes get to where he is today.

While he may not know his father, he has found other family.

His brother, both from the same father, reached out through Facebook. 

“After 23 years of not knowing him. Knowing that there were some people out there but finally meeting someone.”

Catching up like old friends, telling life stories and sharing memories. Its an unforgettable feeling.

Now, Barnes is concentrating on school and of course, Football. 

“I was happy for Matt, he’s been through a lot, back for a six year, to see him catch that and run it in for a touchdown, that was fun to see.”

“Everybody knows right from wrong pretty much, you have to stick with the right. even if it’s a hard decision.”

Barnes graduated with a business degree and is now in grad school in the MBA program which he will complete in the spring.

In studio, Emily Giangreco for KLFY News 10 

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