For Matt Barkley Thursday was a return to the school where he made his name and received an honor that football coach Bruce Rollinson said was long overdue.
Jon Walters called his feat a culmination of the work he had put in during his time at Mater Dei High.
Barkley and Walters, both from Newport Beach, were honored during a special all-sports rally at Mater Dei. Barkley had his jersey retired and put into a display case at the school’s gym.
Walters put in a robe, a symbol for the greatness he produced as a water polo player.
Both athletes appeared happy as they were honored with Mackenzie Barr (water polo) and Thomas Duarte (football).
Barr, an Irvine resident, became the first female to be a part of Mater Dei’s sports hall of fame, where she also had a robe put in.
Duarte also had his jersey retired. Both Barr and Duarte will continue to compete at UCLA.
Walters is moving on to USC. That’s where Barkley excelled and endured adversity during his final season for the Trojans.
Barkley was not available for interviews at Mater Dei. With the NFL Draft coming next month, the quarterback picks his spots for when to speak apparently.
Barkley wasn’t really there to talk about the future, anyway. Thursday was more of a reflection of the past. He was the 2007 Gatorade National Player of the Year while with the Monarchs. He threw for 9,471 yards and 79 touchdowns, completing 609 of his 1,044 pass attempts (58%) during his career at Mater Dei.
Rollinson remembers Barkley also for his strong morals, “his love for the Lord,” and for his positive attitude.
“None of this success he has now effects him,” Rollinson said. “He’s still Matt Barkley. He still cares about the core values.”
Some draft analysts have pegged Barkley as a second- or third-round pick, and that he is not top QB in the draft.
Rollinson believes that won’t faze his former quarterback.
“He turns adversity into success; he turns the negatives into positives,” Rollinson said. “As far as in the draft, I really believe, what ever they say he’ll do. In my speculation, I wouldn’t sell him short. I think they will be pretty good movement early, because he’s Matt Barkley and that’s one heck of a four-year career he had. You can’t dismiss that. You can’t dismiss his maturity. If it turns out it’s second round, who cares. He doesn’t care. He’ll just go in and prove himself again.”
Walters is no stranger to adversity. He had to endure challenges when he transferred to Mater Dei after his freshman season at Newport Harbor.
Back then the CIF Southern Section rule forced him to sit out a year from competition, as opposed to the current 30-day rule for transfers now.
“I used it as motivation,” Walters said. “They took away water polo from me and it just made me hungrier. It just made me want to work harder. I’m happy for it. It was good motivation for me. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without it.”
Walters didn’t lose a game with the Monarchs. They won two CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles and he was the Player of the Year in the fall when Mater Dei completed a 31-0 season.
Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman called Walters one of the greatest high school centers ever. The high praise made Walters smile, but he also took it as a challenge to excel on the next level and try to be the best for USC, which has won five straight national titles.
“I have a lot work to do on the next level,” Walters said. “It will be difficult and a lot of work, but I’m excited for it. I’m ready to work and try to make the team.”