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Making the Most of Second Chances

Oct. 30, 2007

-- Story originally ran in the Navy-Delaware football program
By Chris Forman, Navy Sports Information

Everybody deserves a second chance.

If not, then Evan Barnes wouldn't be where he is today. After all, the senior goalkeeper on the Navy men's soccer team has taken advantage of the saying many, many times.

"I guess I have had a share of second chances, and I am very appreciative of all the opportunities that I have received," said Barnes. "I have learned a lot from what has happened to me, mostly about dealing with adversity and trying to become a better person from it. I have always been told to take a step back and find ways to get through it. When life provides you challenges, it gives you an opportunity to build yourself as a person."

Barnes grew up in Dublin, Ohio, with his father serving in the Air Force. As a kid, Barnes had an interest in the military, mostly because of his father, but didn't know much of the academies.

"I wanted to be in the military, but really didn't know much of any of the academies," said Barnes. "I was interested in Air Force, because of my dad, but the Naval Academy just gave me more options. If I couldn't fly for some reason, Navy gave me more opportunities to do something else.

"I was the type of kid that wanted to give everything a try. I couldn't hold back and wanted to seize every opportunity I could," said Barnes. "I guess that is why I wanted to give Navy a try. It provided a challenge."

Putting all his eggs into one basket, Barnes had applied elsewhere, but when he was accepted into the Naval Academy, he gave away his spots at the other institutions. The decision to not apply anywhere else nearly cost him dearly, as two weeks before plebe summer, Barnes was in a serious car accident. The car he was in crashed head-on into a concrete pylon, knocking him unconscious. He regained conciousness when the ambulances arrived, and it took nearly 20 minutes to cut him out of the automobile using the jaws of life. He was life-flighted to the Ohio State medical center, where he was diagnosed with a broken arm, a "banged-up" hip and several other minor injuries.



He would be laid up for two to three months, rehabbing his injuries, all the while, putting his college plans on hold.

"It was a little overwhelming at first, because I was all set to head to the Naval Academy in about two weeks," said Barnes. "Obviously, when you come to the Academy, you need to be in good physical condition and I wasn't. I kept thinking 'What am I going to do now'?

"Fortunately, my guidance counselor in high school really helped me out and kind of pulled some strings to get me into Ohio State for a year, delaying my appointment to the Naval Academy for a year," said Barnes. "In the end, going to Ohio State was one of the best decisions I ever made, even though it was scary at the time. I didn't know what was going to happen."

Barnes went sky-diving four months after his release from the hospital.

"I wanted to seize every opportunity," Barnes repeated. "I wanted to give everything a try."

While at Ohio State, Barnes got accustomed to college life, both socially and academically. It prepared him even moreso for what the Academy was all about.

"I had a great time at Ohio State and it worked out the best for me to experience college life and get used to it," said Barnes. "But I had no plans on staying there. It opened up a lot of doors for me, but Navy gave me opportunities that Ohio State couldn't."

One of the opportunities Ohio State did offer was the chance to play club soccer. Barnes had played soccer since he was four years old and was something he wanted to try in college. "I obviously couldn't give soccer up," said Barnes. "It had been a big part of my life and I wanted to continue playing for as long as I could."

When Barnes arrived at the Naval Academy, he didn't even try out for the team during his first two years on the Yard. However, as a junior, Barnes found himself not only on the squad, but after an early-season injury to Thomas Jenkins, found himself in the middle of the action.

Barnes appeared in 11 games for the Mids as a goalkeeper, recording a 1.28 GAA and a .746 save percentage while recording two shutouts. However, a knee injury late in the season once again sidelined him.

He was forced to rehab extensively, spending much time with the Columbus Crew training staff over the summer, while spending time at home near Columbus. He has come back stronger than ever and is having a fantastic senior season. As of Oct. 16, Barnes owns a 1.22 GAA and a .700 save percentage, while compiling three shutouts. He was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week on Sept. 4, 2007, after opening the year with back-to-back shutouts, including one of rival Air Force in Navy's 1-0 win over the Falcons on Sept. 2.

And despite being in a fierce battle with his fellow classmate, Thomas Jenkins, for the starting goalkeeping spot, Barnes cherishes spending time on the pitch.

"It was been great being on the soccer team here at Navy," said Barnes. "Just to be a part of the team and bonding with teammates and working hard in practice has been a real joy. The relationships I have made with these guys the last two years is something I will always have."

While his accomplishments on the soccer field are impressive, they fail in comparison to what he has done in the classroom. Through last year's spring semester, Barnes owns a 3.88 GPA in honors systems engineering, ranking 57th out of 1,085 students on the academic order of merit. Throw in his ranking of 138th in the military order of merit, he ranks 85th overall in his class. However, his last B came in the fall of 2006, five semesters ago and has recorded just four B's during his time at Navy. He was named to the Patriot League Academic Men's Soccer Honor Roll and was a CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-District II honoree a year ago.

During his four previous semesters on the Navy men's soccer team, Barnes has recorded a 4.0 GPA.

"Academics have always been very important to me. I have always challenged myself to do the best I can in all my endeavors," said Barnes. "Being strong academically can open up so many doors for the future."

Several doors have already been opened for Barnes. After commissioning in late May, Barnes will head to grad school overseas at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, to pursue a Master's in Mechanical Engineering. He is also a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society and the Golden Key International Honors Society. He was selected as a Trident Scholar, where he was one of fifteen Midshipmen chosen for prestigious year-long graduate level research opportunity working alongside accomplished faculty members, as well as being a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, which is an International Academic Award that provides funding for graduate study anywhere in the world.

In his spare time, Barnes has participated in a project called Blood: Water Mission, which is an effort to provide clean water for people in Africa, to promote healthier communities and protect individuals infected with AIDS from deadly water parasites and bacteria.

"The Blood:Water Mission was really set up by classmate Dan Decker (a lacrosse player at Navy). I was responsible for raising the funding for the project," said Barnes. "It is such a worthy cause to be a part of, and I am thrilled that I was able to help."

In addition, Barnes volunteered extensively at The Center of Ohio Science and Industry (COSI), where he taught basic scientific principles to elementary and middle school students and performed over fifty large-scale demonstrations. He is the founder of a Company Peer Tutor Program, and assigned mentors to individuals struggling academically, keeping track of all meetings and academic progress. Barnes also personally tutored peers in various academic courses and has participated as a Special Olympics Athlete Escort. He escorted individual athletes competing in the Annual Special Olympics over the course of the two-day competition and helped coordinate the individual events.

All of the accomplishment and credentials have set him up for a prestigious national award. Barnes is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, being offered for the first time in soccer this year. The award was first established in basketball because of the trend of college players in men's basketball leaving school early to play professionally. During the 2006-07 school year, the award began placing an emphasis on off-field achievements.

Barnes definitely fits the mold of what the award is all about, focusing on classroom, character, community and competition.

"It is an honor to be considered for that award. There are definitely several other worthy candidates, just on our team," said Barnes. "It reflects on how hard I've worked and the support I have received from my parents, teammates, coaches and teachers here. It's very, very humbling. That's the nature of the Naval Academy. It makes you a well-rounded person. It helps you grow immensely."

Barnes has also applied for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships.

"There are so many worthy candidates and there is so much competition to win one of those," said Barnes. "It's a longshot for me, but I had to give it a try."

With his impressive credentials and his propensity for getting second chances, Barnes may have as good of a chance as anyone. After all, he is the type of person to want to try everything.


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