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Minnesota’s leading receiver quits then blasts Jerry Kill on his personal website

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(AP)

Minnesota's leading receiver A.J. Barker quit the team Sunday night in an email meant for Kill that was later published on Barker's personal website.

Barker, a walk-on, was upset at Kill for his handling of an ankle injury Barker suffered on Oct. 27 against Purdue and tweaked in the warmups prior to the Nov. 3 game against Michigan.

In the letter, Barker wrote he planted his foot and heard a cracking sound during the warmup. He said trainers didn't explain the injury to him and even though he was unable to practice for a week leading up to the Illinois game on Nov. 10, Barker said he had to press for an MRI. The MRI revealed ligament damage and a bone bruise, but that with the proper treatment, doctors told Barker, he could be back for last week's game against Nebraska.

But, Barker, a junior, didn't progress the way he'd hoped and on Thursday, Barker wrote, Kill "exploded" on him for questioning his treatments with the Minnesota athletic training staff. Barker wrote that he wasn't doing everything trainers were telling him to do because he was getting treatment outside of the facility. Kill was upset Barker was questioning the trainers treatment and, according to Barker, had a "20-minute tirade" attacking Barker.

"You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me, going as far as to tell me I'll never get a scholarship or see the field again," Barker wrote.

Kill didn't mention Barker's decision to leave the team during his Sunday press conference and it's possible he didn't yet know. Barker led the team with 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games. He is the Gophers' top receiver and the reason the team is 6-5 and heading to its first bowl game since 2009.

Barker said in the letter he's looking to transfer and that as an unrecruited walk-on he could do so without sitting out a year. He also said he didn't wait until the end of the season to quit because he didn't want Kill to sully his reputation for other schools. However, one could argument that airing his grievances in such a public way might have already done that for him.

Barker said he didn't speak with Kill in person because he was too nervous and thought an email would be the best way to get his message across.

"I also hope this can motivate other players on the team that have been mistreated and other collegiate athletes to stand up against unreasonable psychological abuse and manipulation by their coaches/superiors," Barker wrote.

Barker isn't the first player this season to quit a team because he felt like the coach was mistreating him. Former Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson quit and then sent a letter to his hometown newspaper accusing coach Mike Leach of abuse. The Pac-12 is investigating the claims.

Minnesota has not yet released a statement about Barker.

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