If you’ve watched a Purdue University men’s basketball game this season, chances are it didn’t take long to hear power forward Caleb Swanigan’s name.
And if you look throughout the crowd in the arena, you’ll likely see a man anxiously watching the game and reacting to almost every play as if he were on the court.
That man is Swanigan’s legal guardian, Roosevelt Barnes. He took in Swanigan when he was a teenager and helped change his life for the better.
This season, Swanigan’s averaging 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game while shooting .527 percent from the field. He was named the Big Ten Conference’s Player of the Year and led the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Like Swanigan, Barnes calls Indiana home and has a deep sports background.
Here’s what you need to know about Barnes and Swanigan’s relationship:
1. Swanigan Was Homeless & Obese When Barnes Took Him In
Swanigan has an incredible story about how he got to where he is, and Barnes played a key role in helping him get there.
Things looked bleak for Swanigan when he was a teenager. In 8th grade, he stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 360 pounds, Bleacher Report wrote in a 2015 article.
His father had a crack cocaine addiction and went missing for months at a time, leaving his six kids without a dad for a good portion of their teenage years. His mom was trying to support the kids, but didn’t have a reliable job and was on welfare and food stamps.
Swanigan would spend countless nights at 14-years old at homeless shelters in Utah and Indanapolis, but never gave up on his dream of playing basketball, even with his large frame.
Swanigan’s brother Carl called Barnes when he noticed the desire for his brother to succeed at basketball.
Barnes first heard of Swanigan’s background in 2011 and almost immediately took him under his wing. He told CBS News in a March 3 article about the first time he met Swanigan:
He had on a blue shirt, a tie, some khaki pants and he had his little duffle bag under his arm. That’s all the possessions he had.
Barnes was looking for someone that he could spend time caring for and looking after. He had recently gotten a divorce and his biological children were grown up and had moved on to careers. He said in the CBS interview that being around Swanigan “allowed (him) to have somebody in the house that (he) could love again.”
Soon enough, Barnes filed the adoption papers, but it took almost three years to complete because officials from Indiana couldn’t find Swanigan’s parents to sign the required papers.
Barnes put Swanigan on a workout regimen and kept him in shape. He also helped keep his grades up, boasting a 3.3 GPA in high school.
At Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Swanigan stood 6-foot-8 and weighed 275. He proved to be a force on the court, averaging 22.6 points and 13.7 rebounds in his high school career. He was a high school McDonald’s All-American and was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball.
Swanigan received scholarship offers from schools like Kentucky, Arizona, California and of course Purdue. He followed in Barnes’ footsteps by attending Purdue, and now he’s a Naismith College Player of the Year candidate.
2. Barnes Attended Purdue University, Too
Barnes was a star in high school at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne. He set new school records for points scored in a career (1,304) and highest career scoring average (18.6 PPG).
His success playing basketball earned him a basketball scholarship at Purdue. But he wasn’t tied down to just the basketball court. He also played baseball for one year and tested his hand in football for a season.
Turns out, Barnes excelled at football at linebacker for the one season in a Boilermakers jersey. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round of the 1982 NFL Draft following his senior year at Purdue.
3. He Played In the NFL for 5 Seasons
Barnes saw playing time during his rookie season for the Lions, but never experienced huge success in his career.
He played in nine games and recovered a fumble in his first season and improved on those numbers during the next. Barnes started just one game that year, but played in all 16 and recorded two interceptions.
After two additional seasons, Barnes retired from the NFL and pursued a career in business.
4. Barnes Is an Agent for Many Professional Athletes
Barnes works as a sports agent for Relativity Sports out of Fort Wayne.
In April 2016, he was named a co-president — along with Doug Hendrickson — of the agency’s NFL practice, called Relatively Football.
Barnes and Hendrickson replaced prominent NFL agent Eugene Parker in the role. Parker died in March 2016 after a battle with kidney cancer. Barnes and Hendrickson are lifelong friends and business partners and were able to continue doing so by working as co-presidents.
The agency represents “dozens” of NFL players such as the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, Philadelphia Eagles’ Alshon Jeffrey and Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Robinson.
According to Forbes, Barnes had earned commissions of $14.4 million through September 2016.
5. Barnes Has 3 Kids of His Own & Swanigan
In an article by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, Barnes noted that has three adult children in addition to his adopted son, Caleb.
Barnes’ biological children are all of adult age.
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