Former Gophers tailback Marion Barber III dies

Barber, who attended Wayzata High School, played for the Gophers from 2001-04. He is fifth all-time on Minnesota’s career rushing list with 3,094 yards

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears' Marion Barber (24) and Roy Williams enjoy practice at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois on Aug. 1, 2011
Scott Strazzante/MCT
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Marion Barber III carved out a legacy as one of the best Minnesota-grown running backs ever. The Plymouth native stood out at Wayzata High School, then stared for the Gophers and became a Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys.

He was it in the 2000s.

On Wednesday, Barber was found dead in his apartment by police in Frisco, Texas, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram. A Frisco police spokesperson confirmed to the Pioneer Press the department responded to a “welfare concern at an apartment believed to be leased by Marion Barber and we are working on an unattended death at that location.” The spokesman said the cause of death might be shared at a later date.

Barber was nine days shy of his 39th birthday on June 10.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck shared this statement: “Marion was one of the best to ever play at Minnesota, and he is a big reason why many people are Gopher fans today. The Barber family is synonymous with Gopher football and we are absolutely heartbroken for Marion Jr., Karen, Dom, Thomas and the entire family. We will do everything we can to support the family during this difficult and tragic time.”


Barber III followed his father’s footsteps in playing for the Gophers from 2001-04. Barber III sits fifth all-time on Minnesota’s career rushing list with 3,094 yards and second in the record book with 35 career touchdowns. He was part of a formidable one-two punch with Laurence Maroney during the early 2000s.

Barber III was drafted 109th overall in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft and spent six years with the Dallas Cowboys (2005-10) and one with Chicago Bears (2011). He rushed for 4,780 career yards and 53 total touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl in 2007, earning “Marion the Barbarian” nickname for his punishing running style.

The Cowboys said they were “heartbroken” in a statement. “Marion was an old-school, hard-nosed football player who ran with the will to win every down. He had a passion for the game and love for his coaches and teammates. Our hearts go out to Marion’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Barber fell on hard times after his playing career ended. In 2014, he was taken in by police for a mental heath evaluation, the Star Telegram reported. He was arrested in 2019 on two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief in 2018 after witnesses alleged he caused damage to two cars.

Barber Jr. was a standout tailback for Minnesota from 1977-80 and went on to play in the NFL. He played in 85 games for the New York Jets, but his eldest son easily surpassed his career stats.

Dom Barber played defensive back Gophers from 2004-07 and then four seasons for the Houston Texans; Thomas, who was at the U as a linebacker from 2016-19, is currently a graduate assistant with the U.

“It’s shock and disbelief and my heart goes out to the family,” Glen Mason, who coached Barber III during his tenure from 1997-2006, told the Pioneer Press. “I know he was dealing with issues later in life, but you don’t expect this. … He was a great guy, let alone a great player. Just tragic.”


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