While other college students fled to nearby beaches for spring break, South Florida linebacker Sam Barrington took a much longer trip when the Bulls got a week off earlier this month.
Barrington, as he did last year and as he's done five times in the past four years, made the long flight to Ghana. His father, also named Sam, was born there and operates a contracting business in the West African nation.
Barrington, who's from Jacksonville, Fla., likes spending time with his dad. But he also tries to do charitable work every time he goes to Ghana. On this latest trip, he traveled to the countryside and handed out food to locals.
"I feel like that's a purpose of mine, that I was put on this earth to do that," he said. "If you have the ability, why not?"
The trip helps Barrington place things in perspective.
"It brings me to the realization that you can't take life for granted," he said. "I'm a lot more fortunate than others, so I have to be grateful for what I have. That makes me want to work harder, because somebody else would surely want to be in my shoes."
South Florida is glad to have Barrington in his own cleats. The rising junior moved into a full-time starting role last year and finished third on the team with 65 tackles. His speed and instincts make him one of the most reliable players on the Bulls' defense, and he has all the tools to be a star in the Big East.
Barrington played middle linebacker last year. He moved to outside linebacker at the start of spring practice but recently slid back into the middle. That's a position that calls for a lot of leadership, which is a trait Barrington exudes and welcomes.
"I like to put myself forward as a leader, not just at my position but on the defense and as one of the leaders on the team," he said. "That leadership comes with consequences and responsibilities, but I'm willing to do that if that's what it takes for us to win."
Barrington was a highly-recruited player who turned down Miami to come to USF. He has felt vindicated by that choice with wins over the Hurricanes and Florida State during his young career. He says the game is slowing down for him this spring as he gains a better understanding of the defense, which could lead to even more plays for him in 2011.
One of Barrington's future goals is to start a foundation that will help deliver goods and services to the poor in Ghana. He says he's a little too busy to start that yet, "but once I can, I plan on going full-fledged with it."
His first goal is to lead the Bulls to new heights. And maybe there will be some eyes in Ghana watching him do it.
"Our fan base over there is growing," he said.