MINNEAPOLIS — While a celebration of life for Marion Barber III fittingly took place on a football field Wednesday, family and friends largely filled the two hour service remembering the legacy the running back left off of the field.
"What I remember more is the kid, the smile," said former Gophers coach Glen Mason, who recruited and coached Barber following a standout career at Wayzata High School. "That smile on Marion Barber, that's what I have (memories of). That's what I saw each and every day."
A steady stream of family and friends shared a number of fun memories of the star athlete, whose million dollar smile masked a quiet and humble demeanor.
"I've been laughing, because I've been watching all these posters fall down (in the wind) and we all know that's Marion saying, 'I don't want this attention,'" said former Cowboys teammate Jesse Holley. "No matter how big of a star he was, Marion always treated you like you were the bigger star."
The celebration also often turned somber, as those who spoke referencing Barber's reported struggles with mental health, and unexpected death on June 1. Police found Barber dead in his apartment in Frisco, Texas, following a welfare check. A cause of death has not been released.
"Marion was tough on the field and he was tough on himself," said pastor Efrem Smith. "To the point that he didn't want to burden people. He didn't even want to Burden his own mom and dad."
Laurence Maroney, who broke records with Barber during their time sharing running back duties at the U of M, was among several former teammates who said they were heartbroken to hear of his death.
"Marion was not a teammate to me, not a guy I made history with, not a guy I just met in Minnesota, but truly my brother," Maroney said. "To the family... I just want to say sorry to you guys. The reason I'm saying sorry is because, even though I did all that he allowed me to do for him, I can't shake the feeling of there is something more that I should have done."
NFL Hall of Famer, Terrell Owens, who played with Barber in Dallas, also made the trip to show support to the Barber family.
"I just want to extend my condolences," Owens said. "When I heard of the news it shook me. It shook me to the core like everybody else."
That support was welcomed by the Barber family, some of whom shared their own memories and heartbreak.
"I think the hardest part for me is my kids won't have uncle Marion," said Dom Barber, reading from a letter he wrote to his brother. "I know that's what's hardest for you, too. But I know this, I will teach my kids your spirit and your ways. They will know who uncle Marion was, and what he was about — gentle-hearted, loving and kind. Your spirit will always be with them, with us."
Memorial contributions can be made to the Marion S. Barber III Scholarship fund at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development. According to family, the fund will provide scholarships for undergraduates with financial need and will give preference to students "who support the University’s mission of creating a diverse and inclusive student body, including those with underrepresented identities or who have overcome obstacles and challenges to achieve their educational goals."
Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to the UM Foundation, PO Box 860266, Minneapolis, MN 55486-0266.
If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the following resources:
Crisis Text Line – text “MN” to 741741 (standard data and text rates apply)
Crisis Phone Number in your Minnesota county
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Talk to Someone Now
Throughout Minnesota call **CRISIS (**274747)
The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386
Watch more Breaking The News:
Watch all of the latest stories from Breaking The News in our YouTube playlist: