MINNEAPOLIS — Former Wayzata High School and University of Minnesota football star Marion Barber III has died.
Officials with the Gophers football team confirmed Barber's death Wednesday on Twitter. He was 38 years old, just days from his 39th birthday.
A cause of death has not been released.
"Our hearts are absolutely broken, as we lost one of the greatest to ever wear the Maroon and Gold today," the tweet reads. "Our thoughts are with the amazing Barber family during this tragic time."
The Associated Press says police in the Dallas suburb of Frisco said they made a welfare check at an apartment “believed to be leased” by Barber and were investigating an unattended death there. The AP reports Barber had issues with mental health after his NFL career ended.
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In June 2014, Barber was taken into custody by police in Mansfield, Texas and taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation. In October 2019, Barber was arrested and charged by Police in Prosper, Texas with two counts of criminal mischief.
Barber grew up in Plymouth and was a standout running back and defensive back for Wayzata High School, culminating in a trip to the Class AAAAA state tournament in 2000. He went on to star for the Gophers, amassing 3,276 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. He's currently fifth in school history in career rushing yards.
Barber was joined by tailback Laurence Maroney in 2003 to give the Gophers one of the best backfields in the country. According to Sports-Reference.com, the Gophers had the third-best rushing attack in the nation in 2003, averaging 289.2 ground yards per game. In 2004, Barber's last season with the Gophers, Minnesota averaged 256.8 rushing yards per game, sixth-most in the country.
"I'll never forget Marion Barber III walkin' into the Gophers locker room as a freshman," tweeted Ron Johnson, a former teammate of Barber's. "He connected w/ me right away becuz his dad grew up in Detroit & knew my dad. He was quick to show me his Air Force 1’s had no creases. Rest Well MB3."
While PJ Fleck never coached Barber, the Gophers' coach released a statement about the legacy the former star running back left with the University of Minnesota football program.
"Marion was one of the best to ever play at Minnesota, and he is a big reason why many people are Gopher fans today," said Fleck in a statement. "The Barber family is synonymous with Gopher football and we are absolutely heartbroken for Marion Jr., Karen, Dom, Thomas and the entire family. We will do everything we can to support the family during this difficult and tragic time."
Barber was a fourth-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, where he spent six seasons before going to Chicago in 2011. He retired after the 2011 season, rounding out his NFL career with 4,780 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns. His 47 TDs on the ground with Dallas gives him the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in franchise history.
"We are heartbroken by the tragic death of Marion Barber III," the tweet reads. "Marion was an old-school, hard-nosed football player who ran with the will to win every down. He had a passion for the game and love for his coaches and teammates. Our hearts go out to Marion's family and friends during this difficult time."
The Barbers have a long NFL legacy, with Marion III's father Marion Jr. playing for the New York Jets, and his brother Dom with the Houston Texans.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is released.
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