The Maestro


Mar 27, 2006
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The Maestro
Amateur musician has become leader on Packers defense
Posted: Nov. 7, 2006
Green Bay - There's a difference between being popular and being a leader and, no, this isn't an election-day story.

But back when Nick Barnett joined the Green Bay Packers as a first-round draft pick in 2003, he was content with building a bond of trust between himself, his teammates and his coaches.

But he always believed that one day he would lead the linebackers and then the entire defense.

Now in his fourth season, he has managed to remain well-liked by the team as well as respected by his peers.

"You know he's going to work hard, give his whole body up for the team, and everybody likes that in a guy," said Barnett's road-game roommate, Nick Collins. "And he's going to go out there and pump up the guys. He is a great leader."

Just not at first.

In 2003, when the Packers' defense was struggling, Barnett was surrounded by veterans and was hesitant to speak up. He was also told to tone down his on-the-field theatrics. Still, his 134 tackles led not only the Packers but all National Football League rookies. He also pulled down three interceptions and defended nine passes in addition to being a special teams body.

Yet even then, a casual survey of the Packers already had Barnett pegged as a future leader.

"I think he's already one," Green Bay offensive lineman Marco Rivera said at the time.

In 2004, Barnett led the Packers again, with 162 tackles and three sacks, even though his former defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, was replaced by Bob Slowik. In 2005, under Jim Bates, Barnett broke a 24-year-old Packers record with 194 tackles.

Under his fourth defensive coordinator, Bob Sanders, Barnett has competition from rookie A.J. Hawk for the tackle title - leading by 58-56 - but he has the unwavering respect of his teammates.

"He's been all over the field making plays," defensive tackle Corey Williams said. "He played well enough last year to go to the Pro Bowl."

Off the field, Barnett moves effortlessly from turntables to community charity outings like Jerry Parins' motorcycle Cruise for Cancer. A native of Fontana, Calif., Barnett had a modest beginning but always had the biggest aspirations.

"When I was young, a lot of kids where I am from, you either want to be a ballplayer or a rapper or a singer," Barnett said. "That's the only way up, but this is Fontana, now. It's not as 'hood as everything else. We're east in the high desert, so it's all suburbs, but you have your Section A housing, where the government is helping you with your income. There, I always wanted to be a football player but I wanted to be a rapper, too."

At Oregon State, where he celebrated exuberantly on the field after nearly all of his 249 collegiate tackles, Barnett used his first Pell Grant to buy a keyboard and his second for a set of turntables and mixers to begin his career as campus DJ.

He was then able to blend his world of football with the musical taste he inherited from his parents.

"My mom used to work at a record store before I was born, so she had all these records and all this music and used to play it all the time," Barnett said. "All the family gatherings used to be at our house and we used to put together all the mix tapes for the parties. My mom listened to blues, B.B. King, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Motown, the Temptations, the Ohio Players. Mostly soul. We didn't have too much country. My dad, though, the reason I have an appreciation for Frank Sinatra is my dad. He's from England."

Soon after Barnett became a Packer, he put a professional recording studio in the basement of his Green Bay home, where he resides year-round. He's had no formal musical training - except playing the trumpet in the junior high band - so he's mostly a self-taught musician.

"I do mixed tapes; I pass them out for free," Barnett said. "It's a real top-notch studio. You can take it to a big city and make $60, $70 an hour in there if you want to. I just do it for myself. I make beats and stuff; this is all original music. I play keyboards and make drum lines, so there's no samples. It's all original and I send it back to guys in California. We also play them at FiveSix. Locally, people who come to my club like my music."

Barnett opened up the club FiveSix Ultra Lounge in Green Bay, giving several of the Packers a place to hang out in down time. It's a welcome respite for players, who used to scramble out of Lambeau Field after meetings on Monday night and race down I-43 to downtown Milwaukee for a place to escape. Now Al Harris gets to FiveSix early on a Friday to shoot pool on one of the two tables and several other players are regulars.

By getting away from the office, Barnett connects with his teammates on another level.

"Oh yeah, we're on that pool game; that's why a lot of us go, to support him, but also to shoot pool and talk a little noise," Williams said.

Barnett had a battle with the Green Bay City Council last spring after it pulled his liquor license for a month for late-night disturbances. Mayor Jim Schmitt recommended that the City Council restore Barnett's license, which it did, and the club remains open. But Barnett has still decided to put FiveSix up for sale.

"We were trying to talk him into keeping it," Williams said.

The decision to sell doesn't seem to indicate Barnett is pulling away from the Packers, however. His contract is up after the 2007 season but he's just beginning his career. He now aims to maintain the trust and rapport he has built up with the people in the Packers organization.

"Every year some rookie comes in and he's, like, 24, 25, and he looks me and says, 'Damn I thought you were, like, 32,' " Barnett said. "I've been here for a long time but I'm only 25 years old. Hopefully I've got awhile. And here, hopefully."

Hopefully Barnett is soon to get an extension He is 25 and Hawk is 22 they could make a great team for a long time.


Aug 13, 2005
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I think he will get his desired contract extension in the offseason. Most players don't get a new contract until they have 1 year left on their current agreement.

Raider Pride

Jul 18, 2005
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Portland, OR Local Packer Fans P.M me.
The Club Five Six Ultra Lounge.

I was wondering what the out come was for the residents and their complaints about the patrons pissing in the neighbors yards, and the loud noise at closing time.

Personally if I was a living next door to that club I would have walked over and talked to Nick myself.

I would have said.... "Nick I could not sleep last night and my Tulips died a slow death by human urine.... What are the chances of me getting a couple of tickets for the Bears game on Sunday." Great.... Thanks, now... "What about double or nothing.... Set me up a game of 8 ball with Williams.... I could really use FOUR tickets to the Bears game on Sunday."


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