TJ Barnes’ football career is best described by the title of a popular Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road. 2021 will be Barnes’ first season with the Pirates after signing last September. If there’s one thing that’s clear from Barnes’ career since leaving Georgia Tech, he loves to play professional football. He last played for the XFL’s New York Guardians in the pandemic shortened 2020 season. In 2013, after his final season at Tech, Barnes was ranked 18th out of 212 defensive tackle prospects heading into the NFL draft. With a 5.28 40 and an ability to “eat up blockers,” one report stated, he was projected as a sixth round pick. Ultimately, Barnes wasn’t chosen in the 2013 draft. And so began his journey.
In summer of 2013 Barnes was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, then released. The New York Jets claimed him off waivers in October of the same year. Between ‘13 and ‘15 Barnes played two stints with the New York Jets, then was released. The Buffalo Bills picked up Barnes towards the end of 2015 but released him towards the end of training camp the following summer. In 2016 he spent time with both the Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs. Barnes’ final NFL stop was in 2019 when the Carolina Panthers signed then released him. Barnes appeared in a total of twenty-one NFL games.
Barnes’ college career began back in 2009. With his size and strength he was indeed a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech, as the well known fight song goes. He made an immediate impression on the Yellow Jacket and was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. In the years that followed Barnes continued improving. By the time he was a senior Barnes was a starter and responded, eventually being voted 2012 All-ACC Honorable Mention. He also set a record of games played at Tech with 54. After playing in the Sun Bowl, a game in which Tech beat USC 21-7, Barnes was invited to participate in the Raycom Collegiate All-Star Game.
In addition to playing in the NFL and XFL, Barnes was briefly a member of both the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and the AAF’s Atlanta Legends. In 2014 Barnes finished college, earning a degree in business management.