In only season as starter, Vikings’ QB Barnum earns Player of Year award

Published 8:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2017

For two years, Fred Barnum, Jr., stood on Warren Central’s sideline knowing he wasn’t going to have a lot of opportunities to play.

With an entrenched starter in front of him on the depth chart and a successful team on the field, all Barnum could do was watch, learn, and wait for his opportunity to lead the team as its starting quarterback.

The time came in 2017.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

With Barnum at the helm, the Vikings didn’t miss a beat despite losing 18 of 22 starters from the previous season. Barnum threw for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns, ran for 620 yards and three TDs, and was a steadying force as Warren Central finished 9-4 and reached the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Other players might have had better stats, but few had as big an impact on their team’s success — and that’s why Barnum is the 2017 Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year.

“He had to hit the ground running and did that. There was absolutely no dropoff in the position. He had to be a stable point in our team,” Warren Central head coach Josh Morgan said. “One of the big question marks for us was the quarterback position. We had a lot of confidence in FJ and knew he was going to be the guy. We didn’t know what his strengths were going to be, but we knew we were going to have to lean on him. He was just a leader on the field from day one.”

Barnum spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons backing up starter Jesse Wilson, who went on to become an All-MACJC player this season at Holmes Community College. Barnum played sparingly those two seasons on the bench, throwing a total of 21 passes while appearing in eight games.

He made the most of his backup reps in practice, though, and spent games “in the hip pocket” of offensive coordinator Rob Morgan. Soaking up as much knowledge as he could, he quietly observed and learned about the game from the sideline rather than the field.

“It was getting me ready for the stage that I’m at now,” Barnum said. “It paid off in the long run. It helped me a lot with reading defenses and learning the offense better.”

Barnum made his unofficial debut in the spring game against Brandon, when he led the Vikings to a touchdown in the final two minutes — which he scored himself, on a 1-yard run — as they won 34-33. Barnum threw for 96 yards and a touchdown and ran for 53 yards and two TDs, and left no doubt that the position was his heading into the season.

Once the season got under way, Barnum was once again a steady influence on a young and inexperienced lineup. While the other new starters found their way, Barnum helped the Vikings win three of their first four games. He had a touchdown pass in each of the first three games, and didn’t throw an interception until Week 5 against Northwest Rankin — a span of nearly 90 attempts.

As the season progressed, Barnum proved capable of doing whatever was asked of him in a given week. He threw the ball 34 and 29 times in early-season games against Pearl and Northwest Rankin, yet had three games later on with single-digit attempts.

In the playoffs, he showed the ability to be a dual-threat quarterback. He carried the ball 14 times for 70 yards in a 30-13 win over Tupelo, and 13 times for 41 yards and a touchdown in a second-round loss to Madison Central. Against Madison, he also was 14-for-21 passing for 168 yards and two TDs.
Barnum and his coaches say he’s a pocket passer first, but that he’s capable of and comfortable throwing or running.

“I feel more passing. I like running the ball, too, but I felt comfortable just sitting there and throwing it,” Barnum said. “At quarterback, you have to be able to do whatever is asked of you. That’s what I did week in and week out. Whatever the coaches needed, I tried to do.”

Most importantly, he provided leadership by showing that hard work and patience can pay great dividends.

“It’s a great example, because from the moment he took snaps as a starter he was ready. That’s a tribute to him taking his sophomore and junior years seriously. It sounds simple, but it’s not. A lot of people don’t understand that,” Josh Morgan said. “It’s very unusual, especially when you’re dealing with 16- and 17-year-old young men. It shows his maturity. He has all the intangibles you want from a quarterback.”

Vicksburg Post Offensive Players of the Year
2017 – Fred Barnum, Jr., QB, Warren Central
2016 – Raheam Moore, WR, Vicksburg
2015 – DeMichael Harris, RB, St. Aloysius
2014 – Connor Smith, QB, St. Aloysius and DeMichael Harris, RB, St. Aloysius
2013 – Connor Smith, QB, St. Aloysius
2012 – Peter Harris, RB, Porters Chapel
2011 – Cameron Cooksey, QB, Vicksburg and A.J. Stamps, WR, Vicksburg
2010 – Chris Marshall, WR, Porters Chapel
2009 – Tim Jones, RB, Warren Central
2008 – Clayton Holmes, QB, Porters Chapel
2007 – Austin Barber, RB, Porters Chapel
2006 – Hayden Hales, QB, Porters Chapel
2005 – Chris Mixon, RB, Porters Chapel
2004 – Larry Warner, RB, Warren Central
2003 – Larry Warner, RB, Warren Central
2002 – Richmond Fields, RB, Warren Central
2001 – J.J. Brown/Phelan Gray, RB, Vicksburg
2000 – J.J. Brown, RB, Vicksburg
1999 – Caris London, RB, Vicksburg
1998 – Thomas McKnight, RB, Vicksburg
1997 – Josh Morgan, QB, Warren Central
1996 – Ben Jernigan, QB, Porters Chapel
1995 – Stacy Williams, RB, St. Aloysius
1994 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central
1993 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central and Jamaal Williams, RB, St. Aloysius
1992 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central
1991 – Alfred Daniels, RB, Vicksburg
1990 – Damian McClelland, RB, Vicksburg
1989 – Larry Carter, RB, Warren Central
1988 – Kenny Johnson, RB, Warren Central
1987 – John Kavanaugh, RB, St. Aloysius

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest