Notre Dame vs. USC: The UCLA Player Who Injured Matt Barkley? The Son of a Former Notre Dame Running Back Tony Brooks

By Jason McIntyre

Barr, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior linebacker, is rapidly rising up NFL draft boards (our new mock is out tomorrow afternoon). He’s having an outstanding season for the Bruins (17.5 tackles for losses, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles), and has an outside shot to win defensive player of the year honors in the Pac 12.

Here’s a neat twist on the Barkley sack, which could wind up propelling the Irish into the title game:

Anthony Barr was a high school stud – he runs a 4.5 40 – and was the 50th rated recruit in the country according to Rivals.

He had offers from USC, Michigan, Florida State and Notre Dame, among others. The Irish were the favorite for part of Barr’s recruitment because of his father: former Notre Dame running back Tony Brooks. Barr is also the nephew of former Irish running back Reggie Brooks. Notre Dame fans may remember Reggie:

Back in 1992, Brooks had a monster year for the Irish: 1,458 yards rushing, 7.7 ypc, 13 TDs and he finished 5th in Heisman voting. I still remember staying up late to watch the 1992 Sugar Bowl, when Brooks’ backfield mate Jerome Bettis (150 yards, three TDs) and the Irish ran roughshod over Florida, 39-28 after trailing 13-0. Tony Brooks was considerably less heralded (1989-1992).

But when it came time for Kelly to recruit Barr, he saw him as a … wide receiver. Barr wanted to play safety or running back, which former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisal said was no problem:

"In recent days, Irish head coach Brian Kelly had indicated to Barr that he was interested in playing Barr at wide receiver, which Barr was not reportedly too keen on. His preference is to play either safety or running back. Reports that I’ve read indicate that UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisal has promised Barr that he would get a crack at those two positions."

Well that’s just splendid: The Irish whiff on an elite recruit with Notre Dame ties … only to benefit from said recruit three years later, playing for another team, and doing something that impacts the only team standing between the Irish and playing for a National title.