“They said they had worked out with him and that he’s a really good kid and a really good player,” Whipple said. “I said ‘you guys are great guys and great leaders’ so we watched his tape, we watched him against LSU and somebody else, maybe Villanova, and he came up and we talked to him on the phone and he came up with his father, he visited. It’s worked out great for both parties, I think he’s happy and we’re happy to have him, especially for two years. It’s worked out well.”
Barr didn’t practice in his first spring with the Minutemen, but as soon as Whipple saw him put the pads on in training camp, he knew he would be a starter due to his instincts and his ability to slip blockers. Barr had played outside linebacker while also being used as a stand up rusher at Towson, but Whipple moved him back to middle linebacker, the position he had played through high school.
Since then, Barr has exceeded all expectations. He has stayed healthy and turned into the leader of the UMass defense, recording a team-high 105 tackles in his first year.
“If you asked Adam the same question, he’d say he was hands down the best player that we ever played against in high school,” Ford said. “You can see the kind of production he has on Saturdays for us. He’s made Adam and I look pretty good with that recommendation.”
As one of the older guys on the team — his teammates often jokingly call him “Dr. Barr” due to how long he has been in college — Barr has adopted a leadership role, being named captain this season. As a middle linebacker, he has adopted the role as the signal caller on defense, making sure everyone is lined up in the right position and knows their assignments.
“You see these legends like Lawrence Taylor, Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, those kind of guys, Tedy Bruschi who's one of my favorites,” Barr said. “I always wanted to be like those guys and play at that level and be that guy, be that leader and lead by example. I really took charge of that role when I got up here and lead these younger guys and show them the way and make sure that they don't take anything for granted, because it could be taken from you just like that. I know best.”
Barr doesn’t want his football story to end after the season, hoping to give it a shot in the NFL if he is given the opportunity. For now, he is focused on trying to get UMass to its first bowl game since 1972.
There will be doubters about a 24-year-old making it in the NFL as a rookie, but if there’s anyone who knows how to carry on a journey and never give up on reaching their goals, no matter what obstacles are thrown in the way, it’s Bryton Barr.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.