That’s what Mater Dei head football coach Bruce Rollinson was thinking back in 2005 about the prospect of a very promising but very green kid from Newport Beach starting as freshman quarterback for his storied Monarchs’ varsity squad.
Rollinson was in a fix: two brothers, both quarterbacks, had transferred.
So it was time for Matt Barkley to show his stuff.
“We had to take Matthew and start working him with our varsity team in the summer of 2005,” Rollinson recalled. “We had Matt in youth camps for two previous years, so we knew about his ability.”
Barkley had a great knowledge of the game and decent enough arm strength.
“But the reality was,” Rollinson says, “in no way did I think he would have to start as a freshman.”
But that’s what happened.
And the rest, they say, is history.
Barkley went on to become the all-time passing yardage leader in Orange County prep sports and enjoyed a standout career at USC.
Now, the blond 24-year-old with deep Christian convictions is set to begin his third year as a professional NFL quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles.
And just as it was in 2005, Barkley finds himself in a position where he needs to show his stuff.
As Eagles beat writer Zach Berman recently reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Barkley is fighting for the No. 3 quarterback spot behind the top two playmakers, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.
Barkley’s competition for the No. 3 spot?
None other than Tim Tebow, the versatile left-hander who, in addition to his football skills, became famous for his pubic displays of religious faith—both on and off the field.
Barkley was picked up by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft and thus far in his professional career has amassed modest passing stats of 30 of 50 for 300 yards, with four interceptions and no touchdowns.
In the four NFL games in which he has played, Barkley has yet to start.
“Don’t dismiss Barkley, though,” Berman wrote. “If the question is passing ability, Barkley has appeared to be a superior passer since the spring.”
Barkley has the most experience in the offense of any quarterback on the Eagles roster, and is healthier and stronger than at any other point in his NFL career, Berman noted.
Rollinson believes Barkley will make his mark as a pro football player.
“Personally knowing Matthew,” the Mater Dei head football coach says, “he will find a way to get on the field, and my honest belief is he will have an outstanding professional career.”
Rollinson bases that belief on what Barkley accomplished as a Monarch.
Barkley had a rocky start as a freshman starting quarterback—not surprising for a kid with no experience at the Division I level of football.
Soon, though, Barkley broke out to become one of Orange County’s most storied prep quarterbacks.
“His raw talent, leadership ability and competitiveness fascinated me, and he was also hungry to learn the intricacies of the game,” Rollinson says. “That is what separated him from his peers, and that is why he had such an incredible career as a four-year starter in our tradition-rich program.”
Among Barkley’s accomplishments at Mater Dei were being named the 2007 football Gatorade National Player of the Year and the 2007 Gatorade national male athlete of the year — the first non-senior to win both awards.
Barkley also won the Glenn Davis Award, given to the best high school football player in Southern California, as well as the inaugural Joe Montana Award as the nation’s top high school quarterback.
After graduating from Mater Dei a semester early in late 2008, Barkley followed another marquee Mater Dei alum, Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinert, in playing quarterback for the Trojans.
At USC, where Barkley played from 2009 to 2012, the former Monarch became the first freshman to ever start an opener for the Trojans. In 2011 he set the USC single-game record for completions with 34 against Minnesota.
Barkley went on the set many other passing records at USC.
Now eyes are on him as the Eagles prepare for the 2015 NFL season.
Outside of football, Barkley distinguished himself throughout high school as a good student (he ended with a 3.77 GPA) and for charitable works, including a program he launched to landscape and renovate youth areas at Camp Pendleton.
Rollinson believes Barkley’s strong religious convictions will serve him well on the gridiron.
“Matt is one of the finest individuals I’ve ever had the honor to coach,” Rollinson says. “His Christian values and beliefs are the core of everything he does.”