JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mike Barrett has been at Bolles for a long time. He had already been coaching at the school for 14 years when the now retired, legendary coach Corky Rodgers first arrived.
In his 43 years on campus, Barrett has coached thousands of football players and pushed them to improve, especially in the weight room. To honor Barrett's contributions, a newly renovated weight room was named the "Mike Barrett Strength and Conditioning Center" on the San Jose Boulevard campus.
The naming was a surprise to Barrett. He arrived at the school Monday and at first, didn't notice the new signage on the side of the weight room, until head coach Wayne Belger walked him back outside.
"I looked up and I saw and thought, this (honor) is for people who are dead," Barrett said. "It surprised me and I'm very honored to have that happen to me. Really, I didn't do anything out of the ordinary to get that, it's just I've been here so long. They had to do something."
Barrett has worked under six head football coaches at Bolles, including the current head coach, Belger, who raves about Barrett's impact.
"It's funny, Mike's hard on the kids, sometimes, but they all love him," Belger said. "He's funny with them when its time to be funny, but when it's time to work, he's going to get after them. But the kids just love him. We love being around him."
One misconception about Bolles' success--the school has won 11 state championships in football--is that they have the best players. While some Bulldogs' teams through the years have been loaded with future college players, some of the most successful teams were built in the weight room.
"When Paul Peterson was here (as head coach), one year, I said, 'Take pictures of the freshmen and then if we're still here by the time they're seniors, we'll see what they look like.' Well, we had one kid that was 130 pounds who went up to 210 pounds, all muscle. So yeah, they do come in as thin, unconditioned freshmen and then we try to work them, year round, in and out of season, and then by the time they're out, we get a good deal out of them."
If you need further proof of the impact a coach can have on a high school player, just ask former Bolles linebacker Brandon Catto. He went on to play college football at Michigan State and UCF, and credits Barrett for developing his strength, even calling Barrett his favorite coach. He also gave gave Barrett the ultimate honor when he named his son after the coach, Michael Barrett Catto.
"When I heard that, I thought, 'Wait, now you're getting a little crazy.' But that's something I really appreciate," Barrett said.