Barber on Panthers 90-man roster

Published 9:56 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jared Barber of Mocksville is a member of the Carolina Panthers. Jared Barber of Mocksville is a member of the Carolina Panthers. Sometimes, if you repeat the truth enough, it can become almost believable.

This is stuff you could imagine only if playing ball in the backyard.

Draft picks and undrafted free agents were at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte from May 12-14 for the Panthers’ Rookie Minicamp. Coach Ron Rivera, who guided the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 last winter, and his staff hosted five draft picks, seven undrafted free agents and about 30 players invited on a tryout basis. Carolina had 84 players on its 90-man roster, leaving just six spots up for grabs.

The 6-0, 230-pound linebacker from Mocksville earned one of those precious spots.

“It’s been a long road and a lot of things to overcome,” Barber said Sunday. “It’s all paying off. It’s been worth it for sure.”

On Thursday, Barber and the others went through their medical histories and received physicals. They were there for five hours. “We got our playbook and met our coaches,” Barber said.

On Friday morning, they practiced from 10-11 a.m. After lunch, they practiced for another two hours.

“They called it a walk-through, but that’s the last thing it was,” Barber said. “It definitely wasn’t a walk-through. It was pretty tiring.”

On Saturday morning, they practiced for two and a half hours. Barber, who had seven-plus tackles in four different games as a senior for West Virginia last fall, was satisfied with how he performed on Friday and Saturday.

“I felt really good coming in,” he said. “I knew what to expect because I was at Pittsburgh last weekend (for a tryout). So I wasn’t really nervous. I had a good idea of what was going to be going on and what I was going to have to do. I felt fast and I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. I was just trying to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Barber was competing against three other linebackers for one final spot at the position. One played for Michigan. One played for Pittsburgh and was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad in 2015. The other, interestingly enough, was Kris Frost, who has ties to Davie County. In third grade, Frost played for the Mocksville Rams alongside Jared and twin brother Jacob Barber. Frost moved to Charlotte and would star in high school at Butler. Then he played for Auburn.

“It was good seeing him,” Barber said. “I played with him for one year on the Mocksville Rams.”

When Saturday’s practiced concluded, players huddled around Rivera.

“Coach Rivera broke us down and said the tryout guys will talk to (another staff member),” Barber said. “The tryout guys huddled around him and he said: ‘We’re going to have a meeting in 30 minutes. Go in, get showered up, get some lunch and we’ll see you in the team meeting room.’”

Barber was not interested in lunch.

“I was too nervous to eat, so I just showered and went straight to the meeting room,” he said. “I just sat there, thinking about everything.”

Thirty minutes later, the man walked in with six names on a piece of paper.

“He walked in and said: ‘I appreciate you guys, all the effort you’ve given and all your hard work,’” Barber said. “He said: ‘I’m going to call out six names. The names I call out, I need you to come with me and we’re going to talk about moving forward with the contract.’”

When the man called out the first four names, Barber had yet to hear his name. “I was sitting there with my head down, trying not to pass out, because I was so nervous,” he said.

The fifth name …?

“I was the fifth name he called,” Barber said. “I sat there for a second, thinking: Did he really just call my name? Is this actually happening? All six of us went out in the hallway and congratulated each other. Obviously, we were super excited. He said: ‘Alright, we’re going to go upstairs and start getting the paperwork ready so you guys can sign your contracts.’ It was just nuts.”

Barber had just a few free minutes, so he called home to share the breathtaking moment with his parents, Lee and Dreama Barber. His mother answered.

“I had told mom and dad around 1:30 or 2 o’clock I’ll be calling to let them know what happened,” he said. “They were definitely nervous. There was a little break and I called the house real quick. Mom answered the phone and I said: ‘I can’t talk long. I just want to let you know I got the spot.’ She was pumped. She was real excited. I went home (Saturday) and got to talk to them about it. It was good getting back home.”

After signing the contract, Barber was handed a No. 54 jersey with his name on the back. The next day, he was switched to No. 49.

“I walked in and they had my number and name on the jersey,” he said with pride.

On Monday, May 16, Barber reported to work at 7 a.m. He will work out Monday through Friday for several weeks. Talk about a dream come true. He’s getting paid to play football for the Carolina Panthers.

“We’ll lift, do some conditioning and then we’ll meet with our position coaches,” he said. “We’ll have meetings all day. That will pretty much be a daily thing – lifting, conditioning and meetings – Monday through Friday until OTAs (organized team activities).

“I’ll be here for five weeks. June 24 is my last day here and I’ll get off until July 25. I’m thinking about staying down here (after June 24) for a little bit just to work out with the coaches since I’m only an hour from home. I want to take advantage of the facilities and the coaches I have here.”