- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
USC quarterback Matt Barkley is set to make a Heisman run this fall. But before that takes place, he’ll make a humanitarian run this spring, as he -- along with his family and 15 USC teammates -- will travel to Haiti on May 14 as part of Hope Force International. The group will spend five days building houses and transporting more than 2,000 pounds of supplies for orphanages and schools to help in Haiti’s ongoing recovery from a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.
The group will include Barkley, Dion Bailey, Luke Freeman, Kevin Greene, Cyrus Hobbi, Khaled Holmes, Devon Kennard, Cody Kessler, T.J. McDonald, Kyle Negrete, Hayes Pullard, Nickell Robey, Josh Shaw, Scott Starr, Max Wittek and Robert Woods. This will be Barkley’s second trip of this kind, as he and his family -- along with Negrete --spent 11 days in Jos, Nigeria, in December 2010, delivering supplies, toys and hygiene kits to the community.
Barkley’s father, Les, traveled to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, which established some contacts and made it the choice when it came time to pick a location.
“It was just our family thinking of something we could do to reach out to the community,” Barkley said. “I wanted to do something one more time while I was in college, before life gets pretty crazy.”
Barkley said a few of his teammates expressed an interest in undertaking a trip like this back when he went to Nigeria. When word got out that this trip would take place, the group quickly ballooned to 16.
“It ended up being a little more guys than we originally planned, but I’m all for it,” Barkley said. “It’s going to bring our team even closer together, because we’re going to experience serving outside of football. I think serving together brings you closer and you get to know those guys more than you thought you did.”
Head coach Lane Kiffin said he was fully on board with the mission, and was pleased that so many of his players expressed interest in going. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest that Barkley and his family are spearheading another humanitarian effort.
Barkley said he will call upon his experience in Africa to help lead the way for his teammates, but ultimately, each trip is rewarding in its own way.
“Because of my experience, I’ll have a different approach than some of these guys whose eyes will be open for the first time to think like that,” Barkley said. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things and growing myself.”