ST. PAUL, Minn. - On Saturday, A.J. Barker was the Minnesota Gophers leading receiver. On Sunday night, he said goodbye to the program in a very public way.
Barker sent out a tweet late Sunday that said, "Well, it's official. I am done playing football for the University of Minnesota and I will be looking to transfer next season for my final yr".
He followed that up by letting his followers know where they could read his 4,000-plus word essay detailing why he was leaving the program.
He said that leaving the team was a difficult decision.
"It's a situation that could tear me apart. And only time will tell if I can persevere and get my message across," Barker said.
In the letter and in a subsequent interview with KARE 11, Barker says he was psychologically abused and felt that Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was a manipulator.
"It was that for me it was an opportunity to raise awareness about this, (a chance) for me to set up the platform of standing up for the things I believe in," said Barker, who feels coaches are psychologically manipulating young athletes.
Barker accuses coach Kill of forcing him to practice on an injured ankle and then yelling at him about his treatment of that ankle.
Barker spoke with KARE 11 for almost 30 minutes on Sunday night and explained that some of his rationale behind this decision. He said he was fighting for those whose voices aren't heard. He also said he has no intention of suing the school or trying to get Kill fired.
Late Sunday night, Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague issued a statement saying, "Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker (on Sunday) notifying the coach that he has quit the team. Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him. We understand A.J.'s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms. Our concern first and foremost is student athletes and we wish A.J. well."
Since he is a walk-on, Barker will be able to immediately transfer to another school. He didn't say where he would be going next, but did say he would like to play college football again.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)