O'Fallon (O'Fallon, Ill.) kicker Austin Barnes is considered by many kicking analyst as one of the top specialists in the nation for the class of 2013. Those that know the senior knows that he's one of the most caring people on the planet, and he's proven himself worthy of that title by starting a fundraising drive called ‘Kickin’ it for Cans’.
“Pretty much, ‘Kickin’ it for Cans’ means a score on the field equals a score in somebody's home,” explained Barnes. “So, when I make a kick on the field, I donate 10 cans of food to the local pantry and any businesses or individual that sponsors me, they can match my donations for a game, or for the entire season.”
The idea came to the 6-foot-1, 190-pound prospect in the most perfect place possible.
“My mother and I were sitting in church and our pastor started talking about how the Fairview Heights food pantry was running low and really worried about the upcoming holiday season,” he shared. “After thinking about it for a while, I knew I could make a difference.”
His unselfishness and desire to help others has been very contagious.
“The popularity of it has surprised me a little bit because I've gotten some great support,” said Barnes. “Businesses, individuals and organizations have all stepped up to help the less fortunate. Our slogan is ‘A score on the field is a meal scored at home.”
Barnes knows that this is his calling for 2012 and he hopes others see it as an opportunity to help their community also.
“It makes me feel great knowing that I'm doing God's work,” he claimed. “I would really like to encourage other athletes my age to use their talents, not only for their benefit, but also God's work, because that's more important.”
The O'Fallon standout is currently ranked third in the nation in punting by MaxPreps. They have also ranked him first in punting, second in kickoffs, second in extra points and fourth in field goals for the state of Illinois. O’Fallon is off to a 4-0 start, with one win coming by forfeit, so Barnes has accumulated all his stats in only three games.
Counting himself and his sponsors, ‘Kickin’it for Cans’ has already donated 1010 cans to the food pantry and the season has just begun.
Needless to say, they’re doing a great job filling up the shelves before Thanksgiving.
“I've always been determined when I’ve stepped on the field to convert a kick, but now it's even more so,” explained the kicker. “I really wanted to challenge myself to make these kicks because it really makes a difference in somebody's home. I haven't talked to anybody at the food pantry about what I'm doing because I want it to be an unexpected blessing.”
Besides his charitable work, the Illinois star’s unique talent earned him an audition for the Irish coaches earlier this Spring and since then, he's been staying in touch with the Irish on a weekly basis.
“Since this season has started, I've had a few new schools start contacting me,” said Barnes. “I keep in contact with coach (Scott) Booker at Notre Dame and I e-mail him my stats each week, so they can keep track on how I'm doing.”
It'll be interesting to see if Barnes will be in Notre Dame's plans or not, but as for right now, I can’t help but admire the young man and the charity he's doing for others.