FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In surveying the roster of top-rated recruits that populate the Alabama football roster, there are also a pair of walk-on players whose last names represent a connection to Crimson Tide lore.
The names Barker and Baumhower resonate in minds of Alabama fans, serving as a bridge between the Crimson Tide’s current success and an earlier era where national championships were also captured with regularity.
Braxton Barker, a freshman quarterback from Spain Park High School in Birmingham, and Wes Baumhower, a freshman linebacker who hails from Fairhope, both spurned scholarship offers elsewhere in order to follow in their father’s footsteps.
Barker’s father, Jay, quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship, finishing with a 35-2-1 record as a starter and finished fifth in the 1994 Heisman Trophy balloting.
Bob Baumhower was an all-SEC defensive tackle at Alabama in the 1970s before earning five Pro Bowl selections during a stellar career with the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
“Coming to games every Saturday, growing up and being a part of Alabama because of who my dad is makes this a special opportunity,” Barker said at Thursday’s media day session at Hard Rock Stadium in preparation for the upcoming College Football Playoff semifinal in the Orange Bowl.
“I’ve seen my dad on old game tape, but you look up to him as your father even more when you get to relive what he experienced when he was at Alabama. It was a pretty easy decision to come here.”
Baumhower had scholarship offers from Florida Atlantic, Delta State and Samford among others, but the opportunity to play for the Crimson Tide was one he couldn’t resist.
“It was something you dreamed of your whole life, so this is an awesome experience being here,” Baumhower said. “It’s been hard work, but well worth the sacrifices. I have no regrets.”
Both players are members of Alabama’s scout team, a role performed in anonymity to most outside of the football program. But Barker sees it merely as a stepping stone to more meaningful future opportunities.
“It’s worth it. Even the guys who come on scholarship, most of them start off on scout team,” Barker said. “For us just being around the program is a great learning experience. Being around Coach (Nick) Saban and, for me, being around Coach (Dan) Enos and Coach (Michael) Locksley, that’s stuff you can’t get anywhere else.”
The daily grind as a member of the scout team is something Baumhower actually finds beneficial to his future with the Crimson Tide.
“You’re surrounded by the best at every position,” Baumhower said. “You’re learning from the best, you’re going against the best at practice every day, so I’m better because of it.”
Both players agree they are thankful to be playing at Alabama during this era rather than when their fathers participated.
“When I watch old films of my dad, I can’t imagine hitting all day in the helmets they wore back then,” Baumhower said. “They had no padding and the face masks looked fragile, so I’m glad we get to wear the equipment we have today.”
Barker is also thankful to be able to avoid the hard surface beneath the synthetic turf of Legion Field where his father played many games.
“I kid him about these elbow pads he wore back then, but he said he had to wear them in order to survive games there,” Barker said.
Since the day both arrived in Tuscaloosa, the legacy etched by their fathers may have given them an inroad to the program. But they agree their own experience will dictate how their family name is advanced.
“I don’t compare myself to my dad, but I’m proud to carry his name at Alabama,” Baumhower said. “It’s now up to me to make him proud by writing a new chapter in our family’s football story.”