January 31, 2011

Coach: Barr has worked hard to become FBS player

When Alex Barr first started high school at Fayetteville (Ga.) Starr's Mill, he sure didn't look like a future competitor at the highest level of college football. To be committed to NC State's football program just demonstrates how hard Barr has worked over his four-year career, according to his coach, Chad Phillips.

Phillips has known the youngest of the four Barr boys since Alex first started hanging around the football team as a six-year old. However, the coach said it wouldn't be accurate to say that the youngster has been around the Panthers since he was little because he isn't sure if that stage ever existed.

"He's always been a huge kid," Phillips said. "He was just so big that it took him a while to grow into his body - he didn't have any strength, he couldn't move and people would run right by him because he was so weak and slow-footed. But he's really busted his rear end in the weight room and we've got a big sand pit drill station that he runs in. He's really worked himself into being a Division I football player."

Phillips said that Barr could not bench press 100 pounds two years ago. However, his hard work and dedication set the example for teammates and turned him into the anchor of an offensive line that helped Starr's Mill advance to the Region 3 AAAA Championship Game this year. Now, he is following two of his older brothers into the college football ranks. Second-oldest brother Ryan was a wide receiver at Bloomsburg (Pa.) while third-oldest Tony played offensive line at the Air Force Academy.

"He was a great senior leader and his work ethic was awesome," the coach who has been at Starr's Mill since 1997 said. "In the summertime, we run our program like they do in college and we're killing them in the summer, doing our strength and conditioning program. We would work for two hours - doing drills in the sandpit, lifting in the weight room, doing what we call finishers, a conditioning drill - and we'd have a post-workout talk. Afterward, I'd turn around and Alex was out there running for 20 more minutes on his own. He was an inspiration to the other kids."

The youngest Barr originally committed to Vanderbilt on Oct. 12; wanting to concentrate exclusively on his prep team. However, plans had to be reworked after the Commodores' coach Robbie Caldwell, a former assistant with the Pack, resigned after the regular season finale. Although Barr had attracted plenty of attention with his work on the gridiron, one of the former Vanderbilt coaches told N.C. State that they should go check out the player in Fayetteville.

"It was tough [for him to re-open his recruitment after the Vanderbilt coaches were fired] but he had a real good season," Phillips said. "After [the NC State coaches] started recruiting him, Alex visited Raleigh and just fell in love with it. We sat down and talked and that program is up and coming. It's really on the incline and it really gives him the chance to play for ACC Championships, to play on ESPN and maybe a chance to work himself into the NFL. There's a lot of reasons that he was really interested in them.

"I think he moved up [by choosing NC State]. He went from a bottom SEC school to probably one of the best two or three ACC schools."

Phillips mentioned that Barr garnered around nine offers, but thinks his young pupil would have had more if he didn't take himself out of the recruiting game so early. The coach said college coaches dream about someone with Barr's size and ability to move that large frame, but Barr was more concerned with helping the Panthers win a state title.

Barr, who began playing on the varsity team as a sophomore, played exclusively on the offensive line during his career, but was a force to be reckoned with. Phillips mentioned that the team runs an offense similar to what is being done at Auburn, Michigan and West Virginia, so the youngster is comfortable with zone blocking schemes and is impressive in his pass blocking.

The coach also mentioned that the future offensive tackle is so young, he won't turn 18 until May, that he still has room to continue maturing physically. Currently, Barr stands 6-foot-7 and checks in at 302 pounds.

"He's just a tremendous kid," Phillips said. "His entire family is very involved with our program. His mother has raised, and this is no lie, probably a million dollars over the last 15 years. The whole family is really about the school, working hard and they are very passionate about this place. NC State is getting a great kid."

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