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As the first-ever FIU football player to be drafted into the NFL, Antwan Barnes helped blaze a trail into the highest level of football for future FIU football players. Recently, Barnes -- known during his playing days at FIU as "El Monstruo" for his ability to terrorize quarterbacks -- returned to FIU along with the two other Panthers, Anthony Gaitor and T.Y. Hilton, currently in the NFL. I had a chance to catch up with Barnes, who had his jersey retired by Norland High last week.
PP: FIU recently signed two defensive players, linebacker Treyvon Williams and defensive lineman Akheem Barton, from your high school alma mater, Norland. Have you had a chance to speak with Williams and Barton?
AB: Yeah, I talked to both of them last week on National Signing Day. I was back at Norland because they retired my jersey and I had a chance to meet them. I told them that they are coming to FIU for a purpose. To be student-athletes, great football players and to represent the blue and gold.
PP: Were you surprised by Norland retiring your No. 42 jersey? I believe it was just the third jersey that Norland has retired.
AB: The school had talked to me before about retiring the jersey. I was truly honored that they did that. The school showed me appreciation and anything they need I'm there for them. Last year, I bought the football team new uniforms and cleats.
PP: After a career year in 2011 with 11.5 sacks, you dealt with a hamstring injury last season. How is the hamstring feeling and how are you approaching this off-season where you are an NFL free agent?
AB: The hamstring is good. It feels a lot better. When the NFL free agency period opens in March I'll start finding out where I will play next season. I like to keep my options open.
PP: You know the Dolphins sure could use a pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake. You would probably be very comfortable in aqua and orange?
AB: [Laughs] I'll see how this off-season plays out. If I come to Miami I would like to do something special for the fans and play my hardest for them.
PP: You played for FIU coach Ron Turner's brother, Norv, in San Diego. Will you be coming down to FIU for NFL Pro Day in March?
AB: Yes, I plan on meeting Ron Turner. I want to get to know him and what his plans are for FIU. I'll be there for Pro Day.
PP: What are your thoughts on FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien and how he will fare in the NFL?
AB: Cyp is a big guy. I knew he was going to the NFL since his sophomore year at FIU. You could tell he was a defensive playmaker. Cyp is a big body safety that can cover the field in passing situations and he can come down and stop the run as well. He is the total package that NFL front office people and coaches are looking for in a safety.
PP: With Cyp and possibly Tourek Williams, Caylin Hauptmann and Jack Griffin going to the NFL next season, there could be several more Panthers joining you in the league. Do you stay in close contact with Gaitor and T.Y.?
AB: Yeah, we talk all the time and if they ask me for advice on anything in the NFL I help them out. We got three Panthers in the league right now, but we have more FIU guys on the way into the NFL.
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