Barta's path to football success a familiar one
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The son of a highly regarded prep football coach in northern Kansas gets set to wrap up a sterling high school career before suiting up collegiately for the Kansas State University football team.
Holton High School senior Mason Barta is in that position currently as he recently committed to play for K-State and gray shirt, meaning his scholarship offer and eligibility on the team would start in the second semester of his freshman year.
Mason will be following closely in his father’s footsteps, as HHS football coach Brooks Barta also played for his dad, former Smith Center coach Roger Barta, before moving on to star at Kansas State.
Given the elder Barta’s coaching success at Smith Center and Brooks’ results both on the field and on the sideline, there were certainly some high football standards for Mason to try and live up to, but he noted he was excited for his chance.
“I was really excited coming into high school, being able to play with my dad. I thought it’d be a great experience,” Mason said.
The Holton senior hasn’t disappointed so far in his career. While he saw very limited action as a freshman on the 2012 state championship team, Mason has quickly settled in as an anchor in the middle of the HHS defense the past two seasons.
In 2013, as a sophomore, Mason led the Holton defense with 72 tackles and also recorded four tackles for loss and an interception. Last season, he tallied 85 tackles (second best on the team), four tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.
Coexisting with his father as coach has actually come pretty naturally and Brooks noted that may stem from his son being around football all his life. Once Mason entered high school, he knew what to expect and how his father would run things.
While football and home life are two separate realms to the Bartas, Brooks noted that becomes more of a challenge with a child on the team.
How the Holton staff has handled that in previous cases (with other coaches’ kids), Brooks said, is by spreading around the responsibility and he noted he, too, was “raised by the family (assistant coaches)” a little bit when he played in high school at Smith Center.
It is an interesting balancing act with all the invested parties in regards to the Holton football program and Brooks said he tries to be as fair as possible, something his son has done a good job of emulating, but it can also be tough some times.
“I think Mason’s handled it really well,” Brooks said. “Probably the hardest thing is watching him grow up and wanting him to do better some times and not being able to say that, just maintaining the parent role and being a supporter.”
Helping Brooks step back from that perspective is the strong coaching staff he has surrounded himself with at Holton, noting his son is in good hands with assistant coach Joe Purcell taking on possibly the biggest chunk of that shared coaching responsibility.
“I think our backs are coached much better than 95 percent of the schools that we see on film and play just from fundamentals, stance, concepts and understanding games. I think they have the advantage of great coaching,” Brooks said.
Recently, multiple Holton linebackers have gone on to play Division I football, including Rob Riederer (Tulsa) and Trent Tanking (Kansas State). While Brooks noted both are great athletes who worked hard to help themselves, they also had the benefit of the same coaching that he believes has helped Mason.
Mason also got to learn first hand from Trent, who was a senior when he was a freshman, but he noted recently he has been patterning his game off someone much closer to him, his father.
Brooks was an All-Conference player while at Kansas State and still ranks second in career tackles at KSU. Those, as well as his grandfather’s, are some big shoes to fill. While they haven’t necessarily pushed him down this path, Mason did note their accomplishments were a little bit of motivation for him and his career.
“They try not to put too much pressure on me. They’re really good about it,” Mason said. “I want to be as good as my dad, but I tried to form my own path to college.”
“Lately, I’ve been watching his film and I’ve been learning from him. When I was little, he used to take me through drills, too. I think that it helped me in the long run and he’s kind of been on me to get tougher and better,” Mason said.
In his father’s eyes, Mason is already on the right path as Brooks projected even bigger things for his son in college.
“I think he’s a better athlete than I ever was. He’s a lot longer athlete, so I think there’s some differences in the way he’s put together and how he moves and some of those things,” Barta said. “Probably my greatest strength was just vision and understanding the game and I think he has a lot of that in him as well.”
Getting a Division I offer has been a process, one that Mason and his family, including his mother, Tonya, have taken one step at a time. In the beginning, Brooks noted they looked into Division II schools before sending film out and getting interest at the Division I-AA level.
This summer, Mason took part in camps at Kansas State, Kansas and Tulsa with his skills (i.e. physicality) generating some Division I interest that led to visits with Stanford and Colorado as well and, all along, giving father and son more time to enjoy the ride.
“I spend more time with my son than most dads because of the coaching role, so I think that’s fortunate. I think the recruiting process, although we don’t like the experience, it’s been a good experience for us,” Brooks said.
Now, this fall, the Bartas will have one last chance to make the most of the opportunity they’ve been given and Mason plans to do just that.
“I want to play for my dad in a state championship and have the best season that I can to make him proud and finish off my high school career,” Mason said.
On the HHS football field, where the Bartas have spent plenty of time over the last few years, a sign stands in the end zone that reads “We are Holton.” It evokes images of a football family and the program’s legacy.
For the Bartas, family and legacy pretty much go hand in hand and while “We are Wildcats” may soon be a more accurate sign given Mason’s future, both Brooks and his son are Holton Wildcats together for at least one more season and will look to add to that legacy this fall.