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O'HARA: Barnes draws his inspiration from linebacker legends

Derrick Barnes got more than a uniform with a number on the back when he was handed a jersey with 55 on it as a freshman at Purdue.

There was a legacy that went with it -- one that the rookie linebacker wants to carry to the Detroit Lions.

"I wanted a lower number, for some reason," Barnes said at the end of rookie minicamp.

Then he heard the list of NFL linebackers who had worn 55. It included the late Hall of Famer Junior Seau and Terrell Suggs. Barnes also liked the intensity and leadership of Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, Suggs' long-time Ravens teammate who wore 52.

"I consider myself a good linebacker," Barnes said. "I want to carry that number. I made my legacy at Purdue with that number. I want to do the same thing at the next level."

Barnes was a four-year player at Purdue. He had 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his sophomore and junior seasons combined.

He was converted to middle linebacker as a senior in 2020 and continued to produce, posting 5.5 tackles for loss and 54 tackles in six games.

The Lions were impressed enough with Barnes' package of production and intangibles to draft him with an extra fourth-round pick they acquired in a trade.

What the Lions saw from Barnes in the three-day minicamp confirmed what they had seen in the scouting process.

"We've gotten so much feedback on this kid," head coach Dan Campbell said. "Just the character -- who he is, the intangibles.

"He's locked in. He's all business. He takes it serious. He's got a certain approach and a presence about him, and he's been good.

"We're only two days into it, but I would say up to this point, we've liked what we've seen."

Barnes has the potential to be part of the remaking of the linebacker position. He certainly has the temperament for the position.

He's had conversations with Chris Spielman, the special assistant to principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood.

Spielman is a connoisseur of linebackers. He was a star linebacker with the Lions, making four Pro Bowls and All-Pro once in eight seasons in Detroit (1988-95).

"Him sharing stories on how he became a great player, you take it to heart," Barnes said. "It's amazing having all the coaches around, and Chris. It's a blessing to have an opportunity to work with him."

Barnes gets inspired by watching YouTube videos of Seau and Lewis and the impact of their physical skills and leadership qualities.

View photos from the final day of Detroit Lions Rookie Minicamp on Sunday May 16, 2021 in Allen Park, Mich.

"Just that mentality they had -- the linebacker mentality they had," Barnes said. "Can't nobody take that away from them. I want to develop as a player like that.

"Just downhill, making plays. Big plays. In order to be a good linebacker in this league, you have to take everything to heart. That means putting in effort, putting in overtime. Studying.

"For me, playing linebacker is physical. Watching those guys stokes me up. The old souls. People talking about winning, accomplishing things, it drives me. It drives me all the time."

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