Mark Barron hopes to provide example to Mobile’s next football stars

After helping give away 1,000 turkeys and the accompanying Thanksgiving dinner fixings at the Reese’s Senior Bowl’s third annual Turkey Bowl Classic on Sunday, former Alabama All-American Mark Barron will be back in Prichard on Tuesday afternoon with 1,000 more turkeys at his sixth annual Thanksgiving event .

“For me, it’s a must that I go back and touch the areas that I grew up in,” Barron said on Sunday. “We’ll definitely be doing the one out in Prichard. One of the reasons I do this is to be able to come out and touch some of the other areas of the city as well.”

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Barron is in his second year partnering with the Senior Bowl for its turkey giveaway, which also included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Greer’s Markets and Feeding the Gulf Coast as partners, giving away the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal outside of South Alabama’s Hancock Whitney Stadium while youngsters from the NFL Flag League, park programs, CYO Mobile and private schools played football inside it.

“The one level that we weren’t touching before this event was our youth tackle leagues,” said Jim Nagy, the Senior Bowl’s executive director, “so we’ve got all the kids from the county and city tackle leagues and private schools, so it’s turned out to be one of our favorite events of the year. 🇧🇷

“We’d done the Charity Run for a long time – 30-some years of the Charity Run. And when I got to the Senior Bowl, it didn’t feel like – it wasn’t the fit. We’re a football organization, and the goal is to support every level of football, so we have our youth flag league, we have a connection with the high school and college guys, but we weren’t really servicing that youth tackle group, so this was an event to do that. And then just to pair it with the turkeys and the food, it just all fits together. It’s kind of the perfect event.”

Barron was also a youth-football standout in Mobile and starred at St. Paul’s Episcopal before going on to the Crimson Tide and the NFL. Barron said the Turkey Bowl tie-in made partnering with the Senior Bowl attractive to him.

“As far as what we’re doing out here, one of the most important things to me is showing these kids how important it is to reach back and try to do something to help the people around you and be a part of something greater than yourself just in case they do make it to that next level or do go on to have that level of success, they understand the importance of that,” Barron said. “… There’s a lot of talent coming out of Mobile, and I want to encourage those and show them the way as far as coming back and uplifting the people in the community, and not just uplifting, but helping the people that really need it because there is a lot of people that really need it.”

The first car got in line on John Counts Drive around 7 am Sunday for the Senior Bowl event, and six hours later, a team of volunteers started loading vehicles eight at time in two lines with the future Thanksgiving meals.

“People don’t line up for free food five, six hours in advance if they don’t need it, and we’ve got cars lined up as far as I can see out of this complex,” said Michael Ledger, the president and CEO of Feeding the Gulf Coast, as the first cars rolled into the service area on Sunday. “… We give away all this food every year, but I would say this year it feels like the line is queued up earlier, just more dense. It does feel as big as I’ve seen it since COVID was at its peak.”

The turkey event in Prichard will take place from 3 to 5 pm CST Tuesday at Prichard City Hall, where Barron will again be working with Together Assisting People for his downhome giveaway.

This is the second year that Barron has been able to attend his event.

Barron was an All-State linebacker for St. Paul’s Episcopal in 2007, when the Mobile school posted a 14-1 record and won the AHSAA Class 5A championship.

At Alabama, Barron earned All-SEC recognition in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and All-American selection in 2011 as a safety and played on two national championship teams. He entered the NFL as the seventh player picked in the 2012 draft.

During 119 NFL regular-season games, including 102 starts, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, Barron made 710 tackles, recorded 12 sacks, intercepted nine passes, broke up 42 passes, forced five fumbles and recovered four fumbles. He also played in four postseason games, including Super Bowl LIII, as he moved from safety to outside linebacker to inside linebacker during his NFL career.

In 2020, Barron sustained a hamstring injury during the preseason with the Denver Broncos, compounded by a pectoral injury during his rehab, and he never made it into a game in his ninth NFL season.

Barron said he does miss playing football.

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” Barron said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the time that I have. I’m able to be a part of this personally. I’ve been doing it, but I haven’t always been able to be a part of it. For the last two years, I’ve been able to be home for it. I’m enjoying spending time with my family, my kids.

“I miss the game at times. I’m a competitor at heart, so there’s times when I might see somebody miss a play, and I’m like, ‘You got to make that.’ Just the competitive nature in me. But besides that, I’m enjoying the time that I have and the flexibility I have to endeavor in different things.”

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1🇧🇷

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