DeSOTO, Kan. -- Football is turning to beautiful music at DeSoto High School.
The undefeated Wildcats have a date with determination on Friday night, as DeSoto (7-0) travels to Bishop Miege (7-0.) The Wildcats are ranked second in Kansas Class 4A, while the Stags, three-time defending state champs in that classification, are ranked tops overall.
DeSoto Coach Brian King tabs Jack Barger for the outside linebacker spot on gamedays. When he’s not racking up tackles, King is performing as a highly decorated musician. His prowess at the piano was kind of a poorly kept secret. Many of Barger's teammates didn't know he'd played piano since the age of four.
Three years ago, during Barger's freshman season, he surprised his teammates, who saw Barger tinkling the ivories just before a team meeting.
"I really stress the touch of the keys," Barger said on Thursday. "I like playing more mellow songs. I'm not into bravado."
On Thursday, Barger took our FOX 4 cameras into one of DeSoto High Schools musical performance areas, where he played three pieces from memory on a big Kawai baby grand. One of the three musical selections was from a piece he'd written himself.
"It's just a thing I can go to if I want to relax," Barger told FOX 4 News. "If I have a stressful day, I know I can go to the piano and just get rid of it."
On gamedays, he shows the kind of aggression and focus that's led his team to so much success. The Wildcats' defense has surrendered only 43 points over seven games, and recorded three shutouts as well. When he switches pigskin for piano, Barger's talent is self-explanatory. He's highly decorated, performing at least two recitals per year at gatherings such as the Mid-America Music Association Festival, where he received a superior rating this year. Barger also performs at his church and at retirement homes in the area.
"He breaks that typical stereotype you think of when you think about a football player," King said. "A lot of our kids do that. They're well-rounded kids."
"It's just his enthusiasm. He brings it to everything he does," Trevor Watts, Wildcats running back, said. "He's really good. He's one of the best I've ever heard actually."
"Most of our more outstanding students are involved in choir or music or band," Barger said, commenting on music being useful for expanding a student's academic success. "I think this just proves that point."
Barger could brag on his perfect 4.0 GPA, but he's too modest. He says he may minor in music at the college level. His next major assignment is Friday’s football matchup against Bishop Miege.