On the Defense: Barker paves his way to Rhodes College with hard work and love of stopping the ball


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

The basic premises of football is to move the ball down the field from the original line of scrimmage to cross over the goal line of the opposition.
There will be a unit dedicated to stopping the progress of the offense down the gridiron toward the end zone. In the family of Donald and Tatiana Barker, two sons were born to play of the opposite side of the pigskin.
Three years ago oldest son DJ Barker used his development as a center on the Brighton Cardinal offense to bloom into a Rhodes College running back today. On Dec. 17, his younger brother Dima committed to Rhodes College after a standout prep career on the defensive line for the Cardinals.
“Very excited to move up on the next level,” Dima said. “Football is really a passion for me and I’m glad to move on.
“At first my freshman and sophomore years I was on the O-Line,” he recalled. “My junior they moved to the D-Line. And I actually did well so they kept me on the D-Line ever since.”
Brighton Head Coach Mike David made decision to move Dima over when he took over the program.
“Dima gives everything he has every single practice and every since game,” David said. “This is definitely earned so we’re proud of him. He’s his own person. He just gets after it every day. We’re proud of everything he’s done from the weight room to practice games.”
Dima was joined by his brothers DJ and Dominic for his signing ceremony in the Brighton Gymnasium Lobby. Also present were Donald and Tatiana.
Tatiana noted the past three years of development and success for DJ assisted his younger brother in the recruiting process.
“He has a big brother at Rhodes carved a way for him,” she said. “According to the coach, he’s very happy with DJ. So he was very happy to see Dima was interested and looking forward to him coming there too.”
Rhodes is led by Head Coach Jim Ryan as part of the Southern Athletic Association in the NCAA Division III. Ryan has been the leader of the Lynx since 2016 and he brought DJ into the program in 2017.
“Dima definitely did it on his own course,” Donald noted. “He’s been playing ball since he was 5. Ever since he started playing ball, he’s been a top player. He’s very self-driven. Self-motivated because he doesn’t wait on the coach to tell him. That’s what drove him, not his brother’s path.”
The young man with a 3.5 grade point average said defense is better than offense for several reasons.
“The D-Line a lot of contact in there,” Dima said. “A lot of technique is used and a lot of learning can be done.
“I love taking away the ball away from other players,” he added. “I feel more of an achievement if I sack, stripe and take the ball away to get a touchdown. I feel more of an achievement.”
Donald noted his two older sons have always had an opposing approach to the game.
“Kind of opposite personalities, my older son is an offensive player and wants to move the ball,” Donald said. “My younger son want to get the guy with the ball. They’ve been on same team at times but never against each other. Dima did have time to watch and learn from his DJ.”
Dima’s strength and quickness on the defensive line helped the 2020 Brighton Cardinals reach the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
In the near future Dima will take his talents to Memphis to the campus of Rhodes. And maybe one day he’ll line up for a drill on the opposite side of DJ.
“I’m going to try my hardest to go against him,” Dima concluded. “He’s a little bit strong than me. But I feel like I can take him.”


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