FRISCO, Texas – It's been 12 years since Cowboys running back coach Skip Peete coached Marion Barber III, but to this day Peete shows players film of Barber for tips on how to play the position in the NFL.
"Every single season," Peete said. "Matter of fact we showed it two weeks ago, talking about pass protection, talking about setting, shooting your hands, striking with a purpose, the ability to finish runs, lowering your pads, exploding through the defender. I utilize him as a model after time I talk about physical play, physical runs and finishing runs."
Barber, who played six seasons for the Cowboys from 2005-10, passed away Wednesday at the age of 38. Frisco police reportedly had performed a welfare check at Barber's home. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
The Cowboys released this statement Wednesday night: "We are heartbroken by the tragic death of Marion Barber III. 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."
Beyond Barber's accomplishments on the field – he rushed for 4,780 yards in seven NFL seasons and made the Pro Bowl with Dallas in 2007 – Peete wants Barber to be remembered as an "unbelievable person."
"The guy showed up every day, had a smile on his face, came to work," Peete said. "If I could show anybody a model and a role to develop a running back to play in this league, it would definitely be Marion. The guy came to work every day, practiced hard every day, did a great job in the meetings every day. Obviously his name was "Barbarian" as a player. Very physical player as a runner and as a protector and had the ability to run routes out of the backfield. Very unique in that way.
"But I think the thing that maybe a lot of you don't know about him is that he was an unbelievable person. He'd give you the shirt off his back, invite people over to his house, cook dinner for them. He would stop by my home, play with my kids when they were young. Very personable in that way.
"The man I'm going to remember is the guy I coached, how he came in this building every single day, what he meant to his friends and what he meant to me, the guys he played with and the determination to try to make everyone a little bit better person."