Tommy Barnett is no stranger to the tradition of Wheaton Warrenville South football.
He grew up around the best.
Barnett, a Tigers' junior linebacker, was a ball boy for the 2010 team, the last state champion in Wheaton.
"I've always been waiting for this moment," Barnett said. "That team was unforgettable."
Barnett last Friday had a game he won't soon forget.
He intercepted two passes, and recovered a fumble – all in the first quarter – of a 27-7 win over Lake Park. Barnett also recorded 10 tackles for the Tigers, 5-2 going into a key DuKane Conference matchup with longtime rival Glenbard North.
For that performance, Barnett was voted as the Friday Night Drive Team of the Week MVP with a whopping 573 votes, taking the top honor over runner-up Dom Collado of Crystal Lake South. A total of 4,937 votes were cast for the Team of the Week.
Barnett was presented his MVP belt, sponsored by Rosati’s in Crystal Lake, after Tuesday’s practice in front of his teammates and coaches. Barnett then answered a few questions from Suburban Life sports editor Joshua Welge.
There's not too many games where you're going to be involved with three turnovers in one game. What was going on there?
Barnett: It all happened so fast. It was their first three offensive series. I guess it just happened and after the third one I was shocked out of my mind.
Coach said he was waiting for that kind of game out of you and maybe a game where opponents were going to try to play in space, where you could make plays. Was what they were trying to do, did it set up well for an opportunity like that?
Barnett: Yea, that's exactly what we practice every day. Our coaches did a great job of having us prepared. At that point, it's up to me to go execute.
What do you consider some of your strengths at linebacker?
Barnett: I think one of my strengths is my pass coverage. I did an offseason 7-on-7 and I think it really improved my pass coverage.
How has the defense come together over the course of the season? You had a lot of new starters this year.
Barnett: After Week 1, going into every game we've gone in really prepared and we know exactly what is going to happen, and when it's going ot happen. Our defense has really come together.
Coach talked about the Hall of Fame this weekend, and guys coming back this weekend that used to play here. Did you watch Wheaton Warrenville South football a lot growing up?
Barnett: Yea, actually their 2010 state championship team, I was the ball boy. I've always been waiting for this moment.
That was a great team! What do you remember about them?
Barnett: The one thing that I remember is the Maine South because it was on ESPN. Danny Vitale, I was running on the field and he ran me over. That's something that I can't forget.
You have a big game this Friday, against Glenbard North, they're playing very well. What are your thoughts going in to that?
Barnett: It's a huge game, Glenbard North has got their team together, they're looking good. It's a huge game for us. We get this, we're guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
Now I know you're a linebacker – are there any guys in particular that you look up to and like to watch?
Barnett: [Caroline Panthers linebacker] Luke Kuechly. He's a guy I got to watch, just the way he plays. He's a killer, he's in on every play.