As a high school senior in 1992, Pat had watched John, also a quarterback, become an unlikely hero at UCLA, where he had transferred from UC Santa Barbara before his senior year. John rallied the Bruins to three late-season victories, the last after trailing rival Southern Cal by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Coming off a mediocre junior year at Cal, in which he threw 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Pat did not appear destined for similar heroics. But Gilbertson was fired after that 3-8 season and replaced by Mariucci, a move that Walsh says "saved Pat's career."
Shortly after Mariucci was hired, Barnes and two other Cal quarterbacks walked to Memorial Stadium to introduce themselves to the coaching staff. It was 10 p.m., and when Mariucci and some assistants, who were planning to install the West Coast offense, started discussing theory, Barnes felt as if they were talking in a foreign language. "I learned more over the next four hours than I learned in the previous three years about my job as quarterback," he says. "In my junior year coaches would tell me, 'Throw it to this guy; don't worry, he'll be open.' If the play broke down, it was like street ball. But last year it became like a chess match."
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is now in the same position at Southern Cal, demanded that Barnes dedicate himself to football and insisted that he put a stop to the late-night fights with his girlfriend and the carousing. "The first thing I heard when I walked onto campus was, 'Hey, you've got a quarterback who parties pretty hard,' " Jackson recalls.
Barnes got himself in line, though he admits it wasn't easy to curtail the partying. "There were nights when I felt like I needed to chain myself to the chair in my living room while my friends went out," he says. But Barnes retained his funky side, which surfaced again last summer when a homeless man showed up at his apartment complex. "He said he was looking for a job and offered to clean up the place," Barnes recalls. "I said, 'Don't worry about cleaning up. You can crash here.' He told me how he grew up in Texas, got drafted for Vietnam when he was 18 and has been messed up ever since. He showed me his four bullet wounds. He used to work in a health club, so he offered to help me with my workout program. After about a week one of my roommates came back for summer school and told him he had to leave."
The man found another place to live, and now Barnes is moving on as well, maturity be damned. Recently he called his agent, Mike Sullivan, and told him, "I was in a car accident. The other driver wants $100,000. What should I do?" Sullivan questioned his client for 10 minutes before Barnes reminded him, "By the way, it's April Fools' Day."
For Barnes, what day isn't?