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More clear is what would have happened to Barron: He would have been drafted, probably in the first round. He would have spent the off-season working out for scouts and G.M.'s. Instead, he had surgery and spent a month with his arm strapped to his stomach, his workouts confined to pedaling a stationary bike. Last January, as a high-profile draft prospect, Barron held a news conference to announce his plans to return for his senior season; he took all of 80 seconds to read his statement.
Barron attracted attention of an entirely unwanted nature two months later, on the eve of spring ball, when he was arrested in Mobile on a second-degree misdemeanor charge of hindering prosecution. When police asked him how his car ended up wrecked off a highway at 5 a.m., Barron said some guy—"Bull" was the only name he gave to an officer—had taken it from him without permission.
An investigation revealed that the driver in fact was a cousin of Barron's. Police gave Barron a chance to amend his earlier statement, but he turned it down. That opening his mouth a second time might have saved face as well as the $500 to make bail didn't seem to matter to him. He had said enough.
"I learned from it," Barron told local reporters later, adding, characteristically, "and that's pretty much all I have to say about that."
BARRON DOES HAVE A WAY OF BEING AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR amid the sound and fury of a football game. Where others beat their chests to make their points, "my leadership style is more my example," Barron says. "If everybody is kind of laid-back, I'll be the one to have a hard hit or something like that." (Don't expect him to get too fired up about such big plays, though; a little clap, a high five—that's as self-indulgent as he gets.) And if Barron needs to make an adjustment in the secondary, he'll run over and tell his teammates directly instead of barking orders across the field.
"We all come to him when we have a question about a coverage or a play," says his fellow team captain, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who adds that Barron isn't any more animated behind the scenes. "He kind of keeps to himself and watches film all the time."
The irony? Barron's monastic approach may have helped him pull off the ultimate showman's trick: Not only is he closing out his Alabama career at the top of his game, but he's also leaving an audience wanting so much more. That much at least rings loud and clear.
Victor Luckerson, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White at the University of Alabama, contributed reporting for this story.