Jared Barber was a leader on and off the field for the West Virginia football team. His energy and tenacity was unmatched among the Mountaineers.
Now, the Mocksville, N.C. native has a chance to go back home.
Barber, who went undrafted last month, recently signed a professional contract with the Carolina Panthers. Charlotte, where the team plays its home games, is located just 61 miles from his hometown.
Getting the go-ahead from the Panthers, after working out with the team last week, has to be a dream-come-true for the determined linebacker.
"“I couldn’t be happier to be back,” Barber said. “Obviously getting the chance to play in the NFL is a blessing by itself, but playing at home definitely makes it much sweeter. “It’s just 50 minutes up the road. It’s a small place, and not a lot of people get the chance to play big-time ball – whether it’s football or baseball or whatever. I’m just showing kids back there if you work hard enough, you can make it no matter where you come from.”"
Nobody deserves this opportunity more than Barber. He missed the 2014 season due to a torn ACL he suffered in a game the season before. So, his path to the professional ranks was pushed back a year as the 2014 campaign would have been his senior year.
Then, instead of pouting about it and moping around, Barber went back to work to make sure the 2015 season would be one to remember, not only for himself, but for the entire defensive unit of the WVU football team.
Barber accumulated 58 tackles, alongside other talented LBs Nick Kwiatkoski and Shaq Petteway. Those three made sure that the Mountaineers’ defense was one of the best in the Big 12, and the best in the five-year coaching career of head coach Dana Holgorsen.
“We are probably as close as anybody on the team. The camaraderie we have with each other is just crazy,” Barber said of the linebacker corps. “Being out that long, it’s easy to come back with those guys because I’m so comfortable with them. I think it’s going to be really great.”
Barber exudes a tough demeanor and he presents himself as a true-blood football player. As determined and focused as he was on the field, Barber was even more excitable off it. He was a true leader for the Mountaineers and he showed that with his well-spoken personality in interviews with the media.
He is an easy guy to root for and, now, with the Panthers, WVU football fans should root for him to make the team.