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Cole Barker: True Fighting Irish

With things a little slow over the weekend as the Irish wait to enroll for summer school, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune had an excellent story on former Notre Dame student Cole Barker, who at 26 just lost a long battle with brain cancer.

From Hansen:

Literally minutes after saying good-bye to their 26-year-old son at Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa, Randy and Nancy Barker received yet another in-your-face reminder of just how alive the legacy of their late son, Cole Jacob Barker, truly was.

Cole did eventually succumb glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer on May 5 -- if you can call it succumbing. He was given three-to-five months to live by doctors after the persistent headaches Cole suffered in the fall of 2004 were revealed in mid-November of that year to be the result of a tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain.

Faced with an arduous battle in front of him, Cole was adamant that he’d finish his Notre Dame education, which he did, with a double major in philosophy and pre-med. Cole graduated in May of 2006, had planned on med school at Indiana University at South Bend, but he was forced to put med school on hold after he he had another surgery to remove an infected bone plate from his skull.

One person who stuck with Cole and his family through this journey was Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Weis headlined a Glee Club Benefit back in April of 2005, in his early days as Notre Dame’s head football coach, helping to raise money for Barker’s medical expenses and befriending the family.

That friendship lasted through the twists and turns of both families, and continued after Barker’s death earlier this month, when they received a phone call from the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The post-funeral phone call on May 10 was just the punctuation mark.

“I recognized the voice right away,” Randy said. “I had heard it in person years before, but recognized it from the interviews on TV.

“He says, ‘Randy Barker, are you Cole’s dad?’

“And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’

“He said, ‘This is Charlie Weis.’ I said, ‘Nancy get on the other phone.’ ... I can’t say enough good things about the guy.”

Weis, Notre Dame’s recently deposed head football coach and first-year offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, first apologized for not being able to come to the funeral in person.

“I had heard stories about him, but I always had a high opinion of Charlie Weis, because I knew he did a lot of things that nobody knew about, like this, when he was the head coach. But to do it when he was no longer at the university was even more special, just calling to make sure Randy and Nancy were doing OK.”

Just reading excerpts of Hansen’s story don’t do the Barker’s justice, so head over to the website and give it a read.

A great testament to the fighting spirit of Cole Jacob Barker and his family and yet another reminder how misrepresented Charlie Weis was during his tenure at Notre Dame.