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January 20, 2011

Celebrating in style

Deion Barnes won't soon forget his 18th birthday on Jan. 20. Before celebrating his birthday, Barnes took care of some unfinished business by mapping out his immediate future.

The 6-foot-5, 222-pound defensive end from Philadelphia's Northeast High announced during a news conference on Thursday morning at his school's auditorium that he would be attending Penn State.

He chose the Nittany Lions over the University of Georgia.

"I wanted to do this on my birthday," Barnes said. "I thought it was the perfect time."

And Penn State was the perfect fit.

"I wanted to make the decision for my family so they can see me play and I wanted to make it for academics," Barnes said.

After announcing his decision at the school assembly, the band played and the crowd that included his family and classmates, cheered the decision.

Barnes said afterward that his decision came down to Penn State and Georgia. Northeast coach Chris Riley said that Barnes had at least 14 scholarship offers.

"Penn State was the best fit for me," Barnes said. "I have a great relationship with coach (Larry) Johnson and also it was very important for my family to be able to see me play. They have been attending my games since I was a little kid."

The relationship he established with Johnson played a major role in his decision.

"Coach Johnson is honest and his resume speaks for itself, seven first round draft pick, one of the top teams every year with sacks," Barnes said. "He gives guys the tools and it's your job get to the quarterback.

Barnes is listed as the fourth best defensive end in the country by Rivals. He is considered the 7th best prospect overall in the Northeast by the G&W Report.

Barnes was an all-Southeastern PA selection by The Philadelphia Inquirer and was named The Philadelphia Daily News Co-Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year.

This season he had 85 tackles, including 13 sacks for a Northeast team that went 9-3 and won the Public League AAAA championship, the school's first Philadelphia Public League title since 1983.

Barnes made official visits to Penn State and Georgia and said he actually made his decision earlier in the week.

While Georgia was recruiting Barnes as a linebacker, he said he would be playing defensive end at Penn State.

Barnes is an exceptional athlete who was on the basketball team, but recently stopped playing in order to get into the weigh room.

"I was losing too much weight playing basketball and I want to be able to bulk up," he said.

Those who know Barnes cite his exemplary character in addition to his football ability.

"Deion Barnes is a fantastic individual," Riley said.

Barnes is known for his memorable performance during Northeast's 13-6 win over George Washington in the Philadelphia Public League AAAA championship. He set up the first touchdown by blocking a punt that gave Northeast the ball on the Washington 2-yard-line.

Then he caught the winning 5-yard touchdown reception (off a fake field goal attempt) to break the tie.

Besides Penn State and Georgia, Barnes was earlier considering Pitt, Michigan and South Carolina. The coaching changes at Pitt and Michigan eliminated those schools. In the end it was Penn State and Georgia.

"I felt more comfortable at Penn State," he said.

Now that the celebration is over, for Barnes, it's time to get down to business. He says he hopes to compete for playing immediate time.

"I want to go there and work," he said. "I may not have the tools that some of the guys have but I will go and try to outwork everybody."


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