By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary senior Kolby Barker considered canceling his visit to the Air Force Academy and committing to the University of Wyoming.

He’s glad he didn’t as Barker signed a national letter of intent to play football with the military academy on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the McNary library.

The visit was different than Barker expected.

“It wasn’t my plan,” Barker said. “I figured I’d go to a regular university and play college football. But when I got on to that campus, all of my assumptions on what a military academy would be like, it was just so much nicer than I expected. You expect drill sergeants and stuff but the coaches were nicer than anywhere else. They were fantastic guys.”

But what really set Air Force apart is what the academy would do for Barker after football.

“What really sealed it for me is the future,” Barker said. “My future is set now. You get paid throughout going to the academy and then after that you get a guaranteed job. There I know that my life after football is going to be set.”

Barker plans to get a business management degree and then either go to pilot school or become an acquisitions officer.

“Back in elementary school and middle school, we’d do these tests where you take a survey and it says what career path you might like,” Barker said. “I always got pilot and it just worked out. I always thought it would be kind of fun but I never planned on it.”

Barker didn’t always plan on playing Division I football either. But after his junior season, programs began flooding him with attention. Wyoming was the first to offer, then Air Force last summer.

“I started this with let’s see if maybe I can play for Western Oregon or something like that,” Barker said. “I did not expect this. It’s been so much greater than I could have ever expected. It’s a dream come true. I’m so excited about my future and about the Air Force Academy.”

Barker will have a shot at early playing time as both of the Falcons starting defensive ends were seniors.

“I don’t assume that I will beat out a guy who’s already been there for three years but the opportunity is all there,” he said.

While Barker was unanimously voted first team all-league by the Greater Valley Conference coaches, what stands out to McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen is what Barker did off the field for the Celtics.

“His positive attitude, his work ethic, obviously his talent but he wasn’t always as talented but he always worked as hard and he was always a great kid,” Auvinen said. “It’s been a pleasure. He’s just done everything we could possibly ask from him in four years.”

Barker’s leadership really shown in a pep talk on a Saturday morning after a tough loss this season.

“I hadn’t heard Kolby speak in such a fashion before,” Auvinen said. “He was getting after his teammates and sort of challenging them to make them better. He didn’t say anything inappropriate. He set the tone and got them going and I think it was huge for our season. I’ll remember that probably more than any play or game or anything like that.”

Air Force, which plays in the Mountain West Conference with Wyoming, finished 10-3 last season, including a 27-20 upset of Boise State followed by a 45-21 win over South Alabama in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.