Ruben Barrett is the real-life David of his generation.
The Auburndale junior slot catcher is preparing for a matchup against rival Bartow on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Bartow Memorial Stadium. But long before the big football contest, the 4-foot-8 Barrett had to fight his own personal battles against would-be Goliaths to get to where he is today.
Just like today, Barrett was always the smallest person in the classroom. In a stream of memorable moments in the midst of his school days at Caldwell Elementary School at the age of 10, he was always the butt of a few short jokes: cold, calculated comments designed to bring a young person down. However, Barrett took those comments as just words and jokes.
Still, knowing there was a grain of truth to humor, he wanted to prove the naysayers wrong and play a sport he was passionate about, which was sparked by his mother and father constantly watching the Dallas Cowboys.
But Barrett’s mother needed her son to grow progressively and for his body to develop a little more.
Then, a few years later, Barrett, who was 4-foot-3 at the time, joined a Winter Haven youth soccer team at the age of 13, and it was for a specific purpose.
“I just wanted to show people that short people can do anything that tall people (can do),” Barrett said.
Barrett was running back and on the defensive line at the time. And the shortest person on the Wolverines ended up making some pivotal tackles during the year.
“When I started playing with my teammates, it felt great…showing them that I’m not just a short person. I can do anything that (all of you) can do; it’s just going to take some time,” Barrett said.
Three years later, Barrett joined Auburndale’s junior varsity football team as a sophomore. The Auburndale native asked about playing defensive end again, as he was curious about keeping running backs from opening up holes.
One of the biggest moments in Barrett’s time as a high school football player was when he was thrown out of a cannon, rushing a Ridge Community quarterback into an interception; Auburndale ended up winning the ball game. Auburndale’s junior varsity unit would go on to go 8-0 in 2021.
Barrett just knew he could be just as productive on the defensive end of the ball as people who were taller.
“It feels good how I can do what a normal-sized person can do,” Barrett said.
Auburndale coaches took note of his talent. For 2022, the 17-year-old Barrett made the switch to wide receiver, helping the Bloodhounds to their third straight season of starting 2-0.
Barrett’s role on offense is as a Y-receiver, catching lopsided passes and bubble screens. He also makes great blocks which have led to some big plays for Bloodhound’s offense. But for Auburndale head coach Kyle Sasser, it’s more about Barrett’s effervescent personality and how passionate he is about the team.
“It is a positive impact for sure. He has a lot of the qualities in himself that we try to instill in other kids,” Sasser said. “He is not afraid to fail. He doesn’t back down from anyone and he is competitive. He is not easily swayed by what others say. He has a self-confident tone. That kind of thinking and mindset is contagious. That’s the biggest impact he has on our team. You can see those qualities extend to those around him.
“He knows his role. He knows there are guys out there who are faster or can jump higher or whatever, but just like any other player, he’s working hard for an opportunity with a me versus me mentality. And he’s prepared to take the opportunity and not waste it when he gets an opportunity.”
Auburndale compares to Bartow
Heading into this game, the Bloodhounds are undefeated thanks to Bryce Levidiotis throwing four touchdowns and Amari Turner hitting Ja’tavious Scaife for an 80-yard touchdown against Gateway last week. Auburndale, thanks to this attack last week, has up to 228 receiving yards per game, as well as 163 yards per game on the ground. The Bloodhounds (2-0) put up 64 points and gave up seven points in two games.
On the other hand, in Bartow vs. Ridge Community last week, the Yellow Jackets racked up 325 yards of total offense thanks to Trequan Jones rushing the ball 25 times for 206 yards, bringing his total to 510 yards. The Yellow Jackets average 172 yards per game. Offensively through three games, Bartow (3-1) has averaged 23.5 points, while the opponent has put up 23.2 points per game.