Seneca Valley grad Barclay blossoms into NFL talent for Packers
Don Barclay was too big to play football until seventh grade and too small to get drafted in the NFL.
But in the span of about seven months, he's blossomed from an undrafted rookie free agent to the starting right tackle for a Super Bowl contender.
“Basically it's been a battle,” he said Friday afternoon from Green Bay, Wis.,
Barclay, who starred at Seneca Valley and West Virginia, will make his fifth start when the Packers (11-5) play the Vikings (10-6) in an NFC wild-card game Saturday at Lambeau Field.
The game marks another milestone for the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Barclay, who signed with the Packers — receiving a $2,500 signing bonus — and became one of only three undrafted rookie free agents to make the final 53-man roster.
“It's been a lot of hard work,” he said. “Luckily, I got the opportunity to be in there, and I'm working to make the most of it.”
The 23-year-old got his chance after midseason injuries to tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) and guard/tackle T.J. Lang (ankle).
Barclay replaced a hobbled Lang in the second quarter of the Packers' Dec. 2 game against the Vikings.
Barclay, whose physicality helped him make the team out of minicamp, was flagged twice and allowed three quarterback pressures, but the Packers ran for 152 yards in a 21-13 victory.
“Don Barclay, I thought he did a nice job,” Packers coach and Greenfield native Mike McCarthy said after the game. “When a rookie comes in for his first time and you're able to keep playing your game plan, I think that's a big credit to him.”
Added offensive line coach James Campen, “Donny, even when you don't have pads on, he's a physical presence.”
Barclay made his first start against the Lions on Dec. 9 and has stayed in the lineup. Not too bad for someone who didn't start playing football until junior high —he couldn't make the midget league weight limits — and was bypassed in the 2012 NFL Draft as an undersized prospect.
Barclay said “about five or six” teams expressed interest — his hometown Steelers were not among them — before he inked a deal with the Packers.
Barclay, who wears No. 67, wants another shot at the Vikings after allowing sacks to defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen in the Packers' 37-34 loss six days ago.
“I'm real anxious to get back and get another chance to do my job,” he said.
Playing Minnesota is special in other ways for Barclay. His longtime friend, former Seneca Valley teammate Brandon Fusco, is the starting right guard for the Vikings and opens holes for 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson.
Barclay and Fusco grew up four houses apart in Cranberry Township and played on the same offensive line in high school.
After Saturday night, one of them will go home; the other will advance to the NFC divisional playoffs.
“We've been talking after the games,” Barclay said. “We talk about how crazy it is. How shocking it is that we are both at this point in our lives, and we got the opportunity for this.”
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JohnGrupp_trib.
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