After wrapping up a career year, South Johnston's Brayden Barefoot discusses the motivation that fueled him to win player of the year honors.
FOUR OAKS — Brayden Barefoot is known for being the quintessential small-town high school football standout, having played nearly every position imaginable for South Johnston the past three years.
The former linebacker and safety came into his final prep season locked in a quarterback battle with one of his best friends, and when first-year coach Lee Webb decided to go with Paul Olive as the starting signal-caller ahead of Week 1, Barefoot was told his impact on the offense would still be just as important.
Those words rang true as the senior speedster collected A to go with 17 touchdowns on the ground, in his first starting gig at running back.
He notched seven games with over 100 rushing yards and led all Record area runners (with more than 1,000 yards) in yards per carry.
“No. 13 (Barefoot), he made it special for us. He was the driving force behind the seniors,” Webb said, also noting his leadership on and off the field.
“I wish I had him for three more years ... I’m gonna miss him.”
The Trojans obtained their first winning season in three years, finishing 8-3 overall while falling one win shy of claiming the inaugural Quad County Conference championship.
When South made its state playoffs push down the stretch, Barefoot put together his best games of the year – posting back-to-back 200-yard games to close the regular season, including a career-high 241 yards and three touchdowns in the win over East Wake on Oct. 22.
“It’s really just how bad I want it. I want to win everything. I want to get a first down every run – a touchdown. I want to score and I want to make a play,” Barefoot said.
The two-way standout still fulfilled his defensive duties as a starting safety each week, coming away with an interception, forced fumble and 20 solo tackles.
Rarely having a play to rest on the bench was a product of Barefoot’s commitment to his team and a man that serves as an additional father figure.
“Just show that I’m out there to play ball and not get tired, because that’s how Coach Webb has prepared me as a person – just never quit, go as hard as you can even when you think about quitting,” Barefoot said.
“Me having the type of season I did, I owe it to him – just because of the way he’s looked at me and trusted me with everything.”
The Trojans’ 2021 fall campaign concluded unceremoniously in the first round of this year’s 3A East state playoffs, but Barefoot is appreciative of the way his teammates banded together, providing him an opportunity to finish his career in exceptional fashion.
“Day in and day out, they came into practice wanting to work and I’m proud of them for that,” he said.
“And for me, as a leader, seeing that after four years, that just makes me so happy. It’s very exciting.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910 230-2040.