MIDDLEBURG – Former Middleburg High football standout Gary Barnidge, now an All-Pro tight end for the NFL Cleveland Browns, will be returning to his alma mater June 17 (6 p.m.) and June 18 (Noon - …
MIDDLEBURG – Former Middleburg High football standout Gary Barnidge, now an All-Pro tight end for the NFL Cleveland Browns, will be returning to his alma mater June 17 (6 p.m.) and June 18 (Noon - 3 p.m.) to supervise another edition of his American Football Without Barriers, a free football skills camp for area youth. The camp is free to sixth graders to high school seniors. Parents must bring athletes at least 30 minutes before camp to register and sign a waiver. Bring Cleats. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donate: http://afwbcamp.com/
Clay Today interview Barnidge Monday night about the NFL, camps and his future as a football player and after.
RL: You are returning to a pretty tumultous quarterback situation with Cleveland with the Johnny Manziel saga being a part of the past five or six years. How does the team focus away from off-the-field actions and concentrate on football preparations?
Barnidge: We can only worry about what is going on now. We focus on the guys who are at camp and practice. You can’t let outside stuff distract you from prepping to be the best you can. I think every player has their own way to deal with off-the-field stuff.
RL: You are 30 years old and have had a quantum leap of statistics in the NFL with 79 catches (a career high), nine touchdowns (a career high), a tight end record for touchdowns (tied NFL record of Browns’ Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome) and a selection to the Pro Bowl? Plus an ESPN Top 10 play of the week and a Hall of Fame jersey display with your backward flipping one hander between the legs catch for a touchdown. What is the driving force for someone from little-known Middleburg High to keep the dream alive for a couple more years?
Barnidge: You have to have trust in yourself. Don’t let anyone dictate what you can and cannot do. Also a key is to be prepared to work for it. Hard work is always the key. I prepare each new season as if it is the first season. Along the way, when I was a sophomore at Middleburg and started getting recruiters contacting me, I thought I could play at the college level. Same at college, same kind of guys tell you they are interested. Bottom line is you still have to prove you belong.
RL: What is a typical off-season summer like as an Cleveland Brown? What about the hernia surgery?
Barnidge: I dislocated an ankle five years ago and lost a year. The hernia is just something that has bothered me for a while, but now was a good time to get it taken care of. When the season ends, I take three or four months and try to visit two or three countries I’ve never seen. For the past four years, I’ve had a non-profit, American Football Without Barriers, that I’ve had in China, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey. The interest of American football in China is awesome. Sports is huge overseas. China increased from six teams to 14 teams after we left. Brazil has 30 teams now. Turkey has 20 teams. They have flag football womens teams that compete in college. In Egypt, we never expected it, but we had 1,000 people registered for the camp. The sport of football is growing tremendously internationally. We do middle school, high school and a college aged teams.
RL: Are there any trends that you see in the game that tilt the offensive favor back to a tight end strong game instead of a wide open receiver game? Or has the game still utilized a tight end like yourself the same as always; a blocker and an over the top pass catcher for 10-20 yards and a hard first down?
Barnidge: I think it depends week by week as to what the defense will give us. I might have a size matchup on a linebacker or a speed advantage. We scheme out according to what we might see on defense. I like to think my game is versatile and I can play all aspects of the position.
RL: You come to Middleburg each year with your camp and what do you see in the generations of kids that attend with cell phones, IPads and earbuds as the main interest of most teens?
Barnidge: The teens have an eagerness to learn. Every sport is like that, but football is a life sport that can blend into a lot of things to better your lifestyle. We teach training, eating right, weight room, rest, hydration, stuff that teaches the finer aspect of developing a young athlete. When I see a young athlete that has the garb on that he has seen on TV, like gloves, helmet shields and what, I remember that I never wore gloves in college, but it still doesn’t negate the work ethic of learning the craft and improving everyday.