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Wilson native Ronnie Barnes was given a lifetime achievement award at the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation’s Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.’s Salute to Excellence Awards.
The foundation, which promotes diversity and minority hiring throughout the NFL, presented the award Thursday, Jan. 31, to the New York Giants’ senior vice president of medical services at a hotel just outside Atlanta, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The soon-to-be 67-year-old Barnes has spent the past 43 years with the Giants. A graduate of Fike High, where he served as athletic trainer for the Cyclones’ state 4-A championship football teams, Barnes became the first certified athletic trainer to graduate from East Carolina University’s sports medicine program.
He then went to graduate school at Michigan State, where he became head trainer and an associate professor.
He joined the Giants in 1976 as an athletic training intern. He became a full-time employee in 1980 and was named head trainer the following year. At the time, Barnes was the only African American athletic trainer.
Barnes worked with former commissioner Pete Rozelle to establish an NFL summer internship program for minorities, and he has been at the forefront in helping to make the game safer.
Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson, the foundation’s executive director, said many young people look at football and want to be players.
“So I’m glad to see him recognized by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, because he has done a very good job being an example of diversity, working with so many young people who have come into and through the Giant organization,” Carson said of Barnes. “He has worked with males and females, so it’s about gender diversity as well as racial diversity.”