Where Are They Now: Football’s Dante Barnett

Then-junior safety Dante Barnett celebrates following K-State's fourth-and-one stop of the Longhorns during the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' 23-0 shutout of the Texas Longhorns Oct. 25, 2014. (Archive photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State football has turned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for impact players many times over the years. Tulsa’s Dante Barnett held down the Wildcats’ secondary from 2012-2016.

Barnett had 248 total tackles, eight interceptions and 24 pass deflections in his five years. As a two-star athlete from Tulsa, Barnett got to follow his hometown best friend, Tyler Lockett, to K-State.

“The offer itself got my attention, I was recruited late and I got my offer to grayshirt in late January before signing day. It was pretty much a no-brainer, Power 5, Big 12 — everything I wanted,” Barnett said, “I’m from Oklahoma, so it was just down the road. It was me and Tyler [Lockett], we grew up together and that helped it be a no-brainer. Like, why not go play college football with one of your childhood best friends?”

After making it to K-State, Barnett had his plans all laid out in front of him. He wanted to do something that would change his and his family’s life and follow his dreams.

“I was just like every other high school kid, I was trying to earn a scholarship and go play college football,” Barnett said, “I was also just like every other college athlete, first and foremost, I wanted to play in the NFL. I knew if things didn’t work out, I wanted to be a physical therapist, though. I feel like back home … I come from a place where not many people are awarded the opportunity to go to college for free because growing up, I knew that college was expensive, and there I was going for free based on an athletic scholarship. I realized how much of a blessing that was, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys in college who had an opportunity and wasted it.”

Being around his teammates is something that Barnett could never get enough of, and he built chemistry with his teammates.

“Just running out of the tunnel my freshman year, it was just like, ‘Check,’ I did this. I made it to a Big 12 school and even though we played a smaller school — I think it was Missouri State — I was just happy to be there,” Barnett said. “Being from Oklahoma as well, you watched the Big 12 Championship every year, and when we won it my freshman year, it felt like a dream come true. My favorite memory from being in Manhattan, playing for K-State, was in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game against Michigan. I won defensive MVP and Tyler won offensive MVP.”

“We grew up together and played football together since fifth grade and used to be on the field all day, every day just working on our game, so to be up there on that stage with him was truly surreal,” Barnett said. “Our whole town saw us up there, and for us to be able to make them happy, it was just a big accomplishment for me personally. I don’t think that any childhood best friends can say that they won bowl game MVPs with each other.”

Aside from the relationship with his teammates, Barnett was also close with coach Snyder.

“Honestly, traveling to the media days in Dallas were some of my favorite parts of the year. On these trips, coach Snyder really stopped being ‘coach Snyder.’ On those plane rides, we could ask him anything on his mind.” Barnett said, “He was sort of like an open book. You could never really get that a lot of times because — during the season — he was in football mode, and nothing was knocking him off his track. It’s really funny, I found out on one of those plane rides that coach eats steamed vegetables every night, he literally trains his body that when he eats, then he goes to sleep.”

After college, Barnett followed his dreams and made it to the NFL after being a three-time captain of the defense at K-State. The Denver Broncos signed him as an undrafted free agent. Barnett was cut by the Broncos in September 2017 before having the opportunity to appear in a regular-season game.

“I was in Denver and after I was cut, I worked out for around a year and gave myself until June, and if a team hadn’t called me, I told myself I was going to work somewhere. I was trying to get into coaching, then I got a call from Joe Gordon, a former recruiting coordinator for Kansas State, telling me to come down to Texas to coach high school football with him,” Barnett said, “Only thing was that I would have to teach too. He said it would be a great opportunity for me to start coaching and build relationships with these coaches and these kids. So I took a chance and I did it, and I haven’t regretted it. So now I teach psychology and sociology for this school.”

Now, Barnett cheers on K-State and hopes to return to Manhattan someday as a part of the K-State coaching staff.

“To the fans — thank you for the support. You guys make Kansas State a special place. I hope to be able to navigate through this coaching world and end up back in Manhattan someday, coaching,” Barnett said. “Hopefully, soon, I will be able to send some of my boys that I coach to K-State. Even though I am in Texas, after I break down the film with the kids on Saturday, we all put on our purple. I hope someday I can get back to Manhattan and coach for the ‘Cats and make y’all proud. Again, thank you.”