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Behind the Facemask: Joplo Bartu

Joplu Bartu is another college free agent "find" by the Falcons' outstanding personnel department in 2013. Jop, as he is known by teammates and coaches alike, hails from Waller, Texas, which is outside of Houston. He holds a degree in Exercise & Sports Science with a minor in Criminal Justice from Texas State.  Bartu didn't start playing linebacker until the high school playoffs during his senior season at Waller High and his first practice in college he lined up at safety.  He now finds himself in the starting lineup after just three weeks into his NFL rookie season because of an injury to Sean Weatherspoon. Joplu sat down for a few moments for this week's installment of Behind the Facemask.

Frank Kleha: How long have you had your unique hairstyle?

Joplo Bartu: I had an afro for a while and when I got in the barber's chair one day (my senior year of college) I figured I might as well do something different. So it turned into a high top (fade) and everybody seemed to like it so I've kept it around since.

FK: Why did you decide to put a little color into it?

JB: I just wanted it to be different than anybody else's high top. I had never seen anyone with a blonde high top before so I thought I would just do it.

FK: Who gave you the nickname of "High Top Jop"?

JB: Spoon gave it to me down here. They called me that in college, but Spoon kind of re-ignited it when I came to the Falcons.

FK: What inspires you?

JB:  My mother (Ester Gbawar). She's been going through so much fighting breast cancer for so long. She can't give up, so why should I? That's my drive right there.

FK: How important is the NFL's cancer awareness month this October to you and supporting your mother through that platform?

JB: It's very important to me. I take it very seriously. When there is an opportunity to wear pink I take full advantage of it in honor of my mom. And she really appreciates it.

FK: What's been the hardest personal adjustment you've had to make recently?

JB: Time management. I've had to manage my time better. It's big because in college you have class and football, but it's not the same here. You have other responsibilities like paying bills, community service (during your day off), film work, focusing on practice. You have to use your time very wisely.  

FK: Which one of your five senses is the strongest?

JB: My hearing. It's happened a few times where I've overheard a conversation going on from across the room and I just jump into the conversation. And people would say, 'How did you hear that.'

FK: Hollywood crush growing up?

JB: Mariah Carey. Because of her singing and she was so fine.

FK: What's something about you that people would be surprised to know?

JB: I love country music. George Strait, Randy Allen, Brooks & Dunn, and Clay Walker are some of my favorites. I like the 1990s country music. That's what I grew up on. I've had some opportunities to go to a country concert before, but still haven't made it yet.

FK: Any other types of music that you like?

JB: I like Rock 'n Roll. I listen to Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. I grew up with that type of music in the 90s, so that's what I still like today. I listen to old school music.

FK: Which fictional character do you wish was real?

JB:  I would say Stewie Griffin from "Family Guy"… the baby with the football head. I think it would be cool just to have a little character like Stewie around. He's such a smart aleck. You'd be able to hear what a baby thinks. It would be hilarious.

FK: What makes you nervous?

JB: I feel real uncomfortable being in tight spots around a whole bunch of people.  I'm kind of claustrophobic.  

FK: Then, how do you handle being in the linebackers meeting room?

JB: That's different. Being in a crowded elevator full of people, I can't handle that.  I would rather just sit back and wait until everybody goes and then get in.

FK: What's the greatest invention?

JB: The cell phone. I have a Galaxy Note 2. I'm waiting for the 3 to come out. I can do everything on this cell phone; listen to music, read a book, draw pictures, watch videos and football games. Everything is on my phone.

FK: Other than an NFL player, what did you want to be when you were a kid?

JB: That was my only goal as a kid. I wrote that down many times when I was asked. At church, they told us to write down a goal, put it on a mirror and read it every day. So I would do that. Throughout elementary school when they would ask me that question the answer I would always write was 'be an NFL player'.

FK: Favorite TV shows?

JB: Cops, The First 48, (Law & Order) SVU and Martin Lawrence. I grew up watching Cops and I always thought it would be cool to ride around in a police car. Martin Lawrence is one of my favorite actors along with Eddie Murphy.

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