Connor Barwin oozes confidence. And not the confidence that could easily be dismissed or categorized as arrogance, but a confidence borne of hard work and dedication, a self assuredness acquired thru discipline and performance.
Confidence is a very powerful thing and has propelled Barwin to the enviable position he know finds himself in. Barwin is arguably the most versatile player available in the entire draft but the amazing thing is where he was a year ago at this time.
The 6-4, 255 pound Barwin came to the University Cincinnati as a tight end and also
appeared in 41 games with the Bearcat basketball team. On the football field, he spent
his first two years backing up future Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek. In 2007
he finally got the chance to start and responded with a respectful junior campaign racking
up 31 receptions and two touchdowns on the season. But prior to his senior season in
2008, head coach Brian Kelly called Barwin into his office for an unexpected meeting that
drastically altered his future.
“Just after winter conditioning Coach Kelly called me into his office. I thought he was
calling me into his office because I was going to be a senior, to be a team leader,
something along those lines,” Barwin continued. “But then he just threw it on me; “What
do you think about playing defensive end?” And I said “I’ve never really thought if it.” He
then told me they were ‘going to try it out in the spring but were not really trying it out,
because I know you’re going to be good at it.’ And ever since first couple days of spring
ball I felt natural doing it and it worked out.”
Worked out indeed. Barwin went from solid yet unspectacular tight end to the best
defensive end in the Big East in less than a year, leading the conference in sacks and
being named all conference. In 14 games, he had 11 sacks, 53 tackles and16 tackles for
loss. To get an idea of how athletic and how much of a disruptor he is in all facets,
Barwin had eight passes defended and blocked three punts adding steam to the idea of
him being an ideal fit for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. So, how does a guy go
from playing tight end to leading the Big East in sacks in less than a year?
“He plays really fast and really hard,” said Barwin when posed that question. “That’s what
I did all year and had success doing that. My coaches deserve a lot of credit because they
kept the game plan very simple for me so it was really just me playing on my motor and
Barwin’s individual success with the transition to defensive end served as a catalyst for
the University of Cincinnati, leading the program to the Orange Bowl its first BCS bowl
game in school history.
“It was really important and individually it was really satisfying to know that I played a big
role in it and it worked out perfect; we had 12 wins, won the Big East outright in my senior
year with a lot of other seniors Id grown close to,” said Barwin. “You feel more confident
and leave the program feeling like you’ve opened it to the next level.”
That confidence was on display at the Senior Bowl, where Barwin played both positions
and shifted from offensive drills to defensive drills seamlessly amongst some of the best
players in the nation. In a game full of big names, no one was as talked about as Barwin.
“I went into it knowing I was going to be able to play both, but I have to give Marvin Lewis a lot of credit for allowing that to happen,” said Barwin about displaying his skill at both
positions in front of a slew of NFL scouts.
“I know a lot of coaches wouldn’t have even worried about it but it was important to get to show my ability on both sides of the ball and he made sure it happened. A lot of teams that looked at me didn’t really watch my junior year film as a tight end, so it was important I was able to prove myself as a legit option at tight end. I helped myself in that way and it was fun to show my ability in front of the whole country.”
Because of the nationwide exposure Barwin’s draft stock has risen considerably in the
last month thanks to the versatility he displayed at the Senior Bowl. But when asked
about the buzz surrounding his name, Barwin downplayed it and swiftly displays the
difference between confidence and arrogance.
“As far as my draft stock rising, it’s not that exciting. I mean it’s better than having my draft stock falling, but I firmly believe to not follow that as much as possible. My agent really drills that into my head to not believe that I hear and read,” said Barwin. “I’m just doing my best to get prepared for the Combine. I’m excited for the Combine to show people how fast I am, how agile and athletic I am.”
Speaking of the Combine and how fast he is, how fast will Barwin run the 40 yard dash?
“I’m for sure a 4.6 guy but the goal is to break under 4.6, a high 4.5 for the Combine but
we’ll see what happens.”
As for which position he’d rather play, Barwin is open to anything. “If I had my choice I’d
ask the coach which position I’d get more plays in the game and whatever position he
said, that’s the one I want to play.”
If the transition from tight end to defensive end is any indication, Connor Barwin will make
the transition from college stud to productive pro just as smoothly.