Hog Futures: Maleek Barkley:

Lone Star success: Barkley found footing far from Vegas glam

By: Brooks Kubena
Published: Friday, August 18, 2017
Lake Travis running back Maleek Barkley (15) runs into the end zone for a touchdown after catching a pass during the first half of the Class 6A Division I state football championship against the Woodlands in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Lake Travis running back Maleek Barkley (15) runs into the end zone for a touchdown after catching a pass during the first half of the Class 6A Division I state football championship against the Woodlands in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A brief return home in 2016 led to Maleek Barkley's commitment to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks freshman receiver grew up in Las Vegas with his mother, Roslyn Reed, who moved Barkley and his younger brother, Isaiah Conner, from California when Barkley was 3.

At a glance

CLASS Freshman

POSITION Wide receiver

HT./WT. 5-10, 175 pounds

HOMETOWN Austin, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)

AGE 19

NOTEWORTHY Played on state championship team at Lake Travis. … Named the 25-6A All-District Offensive Player of the Year. … Consensus 3-star cornerback by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. … Other scholarship offers included Illinois, Texas State and UNLV. … Son of Roslyn Reed. … Kimberly and Josh McConnico are his legal guardians.

The brothers grew up without a father -- Barkley declined to say more than "he wasn't around" -- and by the time Barkley entered high school, he had moved to Texas with a new guardian to join a new family.

Barkley excelled in athletics as a kid and played for the Bishop Gorman Gators youth football team -- a nonprofit community outreach program in Las Vegas. In 2013, he attended a middle school football camp and met Josh McConnico, who ran the camp.

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The two bonded, and when McConnico decided that his family would be moving to Texas, he offered Barkley to join them.

Barkley discussed the situation with his mother, then McConnico became his legal guardian.

"Vegas has its challenges for young folks," McConnico said. "Talked to him about maybe having an opportunity to move to Texas. Got a really good school, play football in a safer environment, not exposed to certain things that go on in Vegas. A decision that would be best for him. But ultimately it was his decision. He wanted to go and have the opportunity."

Barkley enrolled at Lake Travis High School in an affluent community in northwest Austin, and by his sophomore season he was playing receiver on one of the state's most successful high school teams.

The Cavaliers won five consecutive state championships from 2007-2011, and the Oklahoma Sooners' Heisman-hopeful quarterback, Baker Mayfield, graduated from the high school in 2013.

Barkley accumulated 1,213 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons at Lake Travis.

But after Lake Travis lost 34-7 in the Class 6A state championship in 2015 to a Katy High team whose defense gave up 3.87 points a game, Barkley went to Las Vegas to visit his mother for Christmas and realized he was homesick and wanted to return.

He moved back to Las Vegas in February of 2016, and enrolled at Bishop Gorman High School -- a private Catholic school where several professional athletes have attended, including Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray, Texas Rangers infielder Joey Gallo and Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Shabazz Muhammad.

That's when, Barkley said, he began to be noticed by college programs as his name got bandied about on social media.

" 'We got a new receiver,'" Bishop Gorman supporters touted, "and a whole bunch of colleges called me saying they wanted me."

Support surrounded Barkley on Twitter, including one tweet from a friend on Feb. 29, 2016, that said "Everybody go follow my little bro... he's a D1 baller!"

By April, Barkley announced on Twitter that he would be choosing between Arkansas, Illinois, Texas State and UNLV. On April 4, he tweeted his commitment to the Razorbacks with a picture that read "Wide Receiver, Bishop Gorman."

But he never played a down at Gorman. Barkley retweeted a USA Today story on April 29 that said after two months at Bishop Gorman, he would be transferring back to Lake Travis.

Barkley said he never felt comfortable at Gorman.

"It was just a different scene," he said. "There was a lot of thought to it. It wasn't my team."

His transfer was approved by the University Interscholastic League, the Texas governing body of high school athletics, and Barkley had 40 catches, 613 yards and 7 touchdowns in his senior season at Lake Travis.

The Cavaliers returned to the state championship, where Barkley scored three touchdowns in a 41-13 victory over The Woodlands High School, where New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola attended.

"We had to bounce back," Barkley said.

Now, Barkley is competing with eight other freshman wide receivers for playing time in the Razorbacks offense. McConnico visited fall practice before returning to Lake Travis, where Barkley's brother, Isaiah, will play wide receiver during his senior year.

Isaiah moved to Lake Travis to join his brother in 2016.

Barkley said his mother will be visiting Fayetteville soon.

There, she will see how far her son has come.

"It's a big sigh of relief that everything we worked hard for has come to fruition," McConnico said. "He's made it to where he needs to be."

Sports on 08/18/2017

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