Marion Barber was “Beast Mode” before Marshawn Lynch came along.
Nicknamed “Marion the Barbarian” for his hard-nosed, physical and aggressive running style, Barber had a productive career for the Cowboys in a short amount of time.
He was an excellent runner, a great pass-blocker and could catch passes and play on special teams well. Barber played seven seasons in the NFL, six of which were with Dallas.
Before the NFL, Barber was a standout at Minnesota, finishing his college career ranking fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list with 3,276 yards, second in all-purpose yards with 4,495 and second in rushing touchdowns with 35. He received an All-Big Ten selection in 2003.
After his redshirt junior season, he skipped his senior season and entered the 2005 NFL Draft, where the Cowboys selected him in the fourth round with the 109th pick. A toe injury combined with preseason struggles meant Barber started his rookie season third on Dallas’ RB depth chart.
In 2005, starting running back Julius Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in a week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Barber moved up to a backup role behind Anthony Thomas, and after rushing for just 2.2 yards per carry against the New York Giants the following week, Barber got his chance.
He rushed for 95 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in week 7 and scored his first two NFL touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in week 8 alongside 127 rushing yards. Barber took Thomas’ spot as Dallas’ backup RB, and Thomas was released in November of that season.
He came into the 2006 season as the Cowboys’ backup, the third-down running back and the primary red zone running back. As a backup, Barber led the Cowboys in scoring with 96 points and led the NFC with 14 rushing touchdowns. He also emerged as a receiving threat out of the backfield, recording 196 receiving yards.
In 2007, Barber led the league in broken tackles, earning his “Marion the Barbarian” nickname. Despite never officially being named Dallas’ starting running back, he recorded 40 more carries and nearly 400 more yards than Jones. Barber also improved his receiving numbers, recording 282 receiving yards with two touchdowns.
While still a backup, he rushed for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning his first and only Pro Bowl selection. Barber became the starter for the postseason, rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown NFC Divisional Round loss to the Giants.
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) May 10, 2019
He was named Dallas’ starting running back in 2008 and signed a seven-year, $45 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. It was a productive season for Barber, rushing for 885 yards and seven touchdowns. He also set a career-high in receiving yards with 417, catching two touchdowns.
The 2009 season saw his carries slightly decrease due to the emergence of second-year players Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, but Barber still rushed for 932 yards and seven touchdowns. That year, he played in 15 games despite tearing his quadriceps in week 2 against the Giants.
2010 was a rough season for the Cowboys, especially Barber. He recorded his worst statistical season with Dallas, rushing for just 374 yards and four touchdowns. On July 28, 2011, he was released by the Cowboys and signed with the Chicago Bears two days later. He played just one season for the Bears before retiring in 2012.
Barber played 88 games for Dallas, starting 41 of them. Today, he ranks eighth on the Cowboys’ all-time rushing list with 4,358, ahead of players like Herschel Walker. In addition, Barber ranks fourth on Dallas’ all-time rushing touchdowns list with 47, behind only Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsey and Ezekiel Elliott.
Marion Barber was the early 2000s version of Marshawn Lynch. pic.twitter.com/z1Cd91ONQk
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) July 15, 2021