Marion Barber III, who was found dead in his Frisco apartment on Wednesday, hadn’t played in the NFL since 2011 and hadn’t been with the Dallas Cowboys since 2010.
But the impact of the man, who former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells recalled as a near perfect player, remains strong within the organization and the game.
Running backs coach Skip Peete, who coached Barber with the Cowboys from 2007-2010 in Dallas, to this day shows players film of the bruising running back for tips on how to play the position in the NFL.
He did it when when he coached the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams after leaving the Cowboys in 2012 and has brought the tape back since returning to Dallas in 2020.
“Every single season,” Peete said. “Matter of fact we showed it two weeks ago, talking about pass protection, talking about setting, shooting your hands, striking with a purpose, the ability to finish runs, lowering your pads, exploding through the defender. I utilize him as a model [when] I talk about physical play, physical runs and finishing runs.”
Barber played six seasons for the Cowboys from 2005-10 and made the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season. He was found dead at age 38 when Frisco police went to his home to perform a welfare check.
His death was felt throughout the organization.
And while Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy deferred to Peete, he recalled his own experience with Barber when McCarthy was head coach of the Green Bay Packers and coached him in the Pro Bowl.
“Obviously, very well-respected here in the building,” McCarthy said. “I had a brief interaction with him back in 2008 at a Pro Bowl. Had an opportunity to coach him in the Pro Bowl. Really quiet personality. But just a dynamic player. His running style was something you always admired from afar. Obviously, very sad to hear the news yesterday.”
The Cowboys released an official statement on Barber’s death Wednesday night: “We are heartbroken by the tragic death of Marion Barber III. Marion was an old-school, hard-nosed football player who ran with the will to win every down. He had a passion for the game and love for his coaches and teammates. Our hearts go out to Marion’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
It was personal for Peete, who remembered Barber as a “model” player and “unbelievable person.”
“The guy showed up every day, had a smile on his face, came to work,” Peete said. “If I could show anybody a model and a role to develop a running back to play in this league, it would definitely be Marion. The guy came to work every day, practiced hard every day, did a great job in the meetings every day. Obviously his name was ‘Barbarian’ as a player. Very physical player as a runner and as a protector and had the ability to run routes out of the backfield. Very unique in that way.
“But I think the thing that maybe a lot of you don’t know about him is that he was an unbelievable person. He’d give you the shirt off his back, invite people over to his house, cook dinner for them. He would stop by my home, play with my kids when they were young. Very personable in that way.
“The man I’m going to remember is the guy I coached, how he came in this building every single day, what he meant to his friends and what he meant to me, the guys he played with and the determination to try to make everyone a little bit better person.”
Peete’s sentiments were similar to those of Parcells, who drafted Barber in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft and coached him for two seasons.
“He was a kid I had a high regard for,” Parcells said. “I was extremely saddened by that news. But here is what I want to tell you and I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk too much about him as a player.
“But I am going to say this: He was close to being a perfect player. He could run. He could block. He could catch. He was tough and he was always there. He never missed anything. I liked him a lot. I am very sad about it.”