NORMAL — Walking into Normal West High School, a sports writer is greeted by coaches from various sports.
When informed the reason for the visit is to watch Ethan Barnett sign a national letter of intent to play football at Missouri State, the unsolicited response is "what a great kid."
Greatness on the gridiron may soon follow given Barnett's 6-foot-8, 258-pound frame as an offensive tackle.
A wide receiver as a freshman, Barnett has only started at left tackle for two years while protecting his quarterback's blind side. This past season saw him earn all-Big 12 Conference honorable mention.
"Ethan is a guy whose arrow is pointed up," said Normal West coach Nathan Fincham. "He hasn't played the line that long. He's a little raw.
"He's got a lot of size and he's smart. He's got good feet. I think he's got a lot of potential for them to mold into what they want."
Barnett chose Missouri State after also considering Nebraska, Illinois State and Northwest Missouri State.
"All the coaches were so respectful," Barnett said. "They are in the buildup process and I want to be a part of that. I love the community, the campus and the town (Springfield, Mo.)."
Barnett hopes to improve in every way, although he admits he's "pretty fast for a big guy." His agility has been honed as a pitcher and infielder for the Normal West baseball team.
"(Baseball) taught me footwork, hand speed, basic coordination skills," he said. "Baseball has been a big part of my life. I'm sad to see it go, but I'll still be playing this spring."
Barnett has not chosen a major, but he's leaning toward something in medicine, perhaps nursing.
Fincham said the Bears are getting a player of high character.
"He's an excellent teammate," Fincham said. "He does all the right things. He's a part of our leadership group. He's just a great kid who works hard."
Barnett enjoyed the recruiting process, but doesn't lament its end. As for football, he has found the family atmosphere among linemen the thing he enjoys most.
"You do basically everything together," he said.
Normal West line coach Duane Thoennes said Missouri State is getting a "super coachable" and "super versatile" player.
"He can pull just like a guard," Thoennes said. "In fact, we pulled him a lot as a backside tackle on sweep plays, which is something nobody does, but he is able to do that kind of thing.
"He's a relentless worker and he's tough. He played through some aches and pains this year. He also helps coach the younger kids."
Barnett has two younger brothers in Nick and Jacob.
"I really enjoy being the bigger brother and being a mentor and role model for those two," said Barnett, whose parents, Doug and Nichole, were athletes at Petersburg Porta High School.