Barry not your ordinary jock | NevadaAppeal.com

Barry not your ordinary jock

For the past three-plus seasons, tackle Chris Barry has quietly been one of the cornerstones of the Nevada defense.

Accolades, however, have been slow to come his way, and he hopes that changes this year.

“That is my goal (to make all-WAC),” said the 6-foot-3 285-pound Barry, who is busily preparing for Saturday’s game (7:07 p.m. against in-state rival UNLV).

“That has been my goal since last year. I want to be the best in the conference at my position.”

Four weeks into the season, Barry is well on his way to that goal. He has 17 tackles, including four sacks for minus-26 yards, and has forced a fumble.

“Really, experience is playing into my success,” Barry said. “I’m a little stronger. I’ve been about the same size for the last two or three years. My experience is enabling me to make plays.”

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Marty Long, the Wolf Pack defensive line coach, just chuckled when told of Barry’s comments.

“He is so quick off the ball,” Long said. “That ball moves, and it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Don’t let him fool you.

“He’s playing solid right now for us. We have to play him quite a bit more than I would like, but he’s Chris Barry and I know he can handle it. We want him to be a dominant player, so I know he’s not (totally) happy with his performance. He always wants to do better.”

Long, an eight-year defensive assistant at the University of Arizona likens Barry to Joe Salave’a, a first-team all-Pac-10 performer for the Wildcats.

Barry’s motor never stops running, which means he won’t give up on a play until it’s over.

“He reminds me of Joe in the sense of that determined dogmatic type of play,” Long said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done and make the play. Joe would get bruised up and come out of games early. Chris just keeps going on.

“He has a chance to be the best player I’ve coached. He understands the game so well; splitting and things like that. We’ve done some things to keep him isolated on the center, and hopefully that gives opposing offenses some problems.”

The “thing” that Long alluded to was changing to a 3-4 defense. The Wolf Pack are a little short on pass-rushing defensive ends and thin overall along the defensive front, and used the 3-4 for the first time last week against San Diego State in a 27-10 loss.

“Any time you get an opportunity to make more plays, you have to like that,” Barry said. “I like taking on the double-team and the challenge it presents. I think I can make a difference in there.”

And, with seven games left in the season after this week, Barry is making a big push to open the eyes of NFL scouts, who have been dropping in on Wolf Pack practices in recent weeks.

“I feel right now that I’m not done playing football,” Barry said. “If I get the opportunity, I want to go see if I can play more football.”

Long believes that can happen. The coach wouldn’t discuss whether he thought Barry would be drafted or have to sign as a free agent, just that he could play pro football.

“It will be with a team that wants a 285-pound tackle that moves well, understands the game and won’t be a problem,” Long said. “There are 31 teams out there.

“It’s hard to find defensive linemen. Especially when they are as strong and quick as Barry.”

Barry isnít your stereotypical jock. While he is passionate about the game, he doesn’t let it consume him.

He strives for balance in his life, and is able to achieve it through academics, music, religion and family. A secondary education major, Barry has been honored twice for his academic achievements, and will surely be recognized again this year.

“In order to be happy, I have to have balance in my life,” he said. “I’m very passionate about football. I love the game of football, but I also love my family and friends. I don’t want to be one-dimensional as a person.”

There probably isn’t a person in this universe that would consider him one-dimensional. Those thoughts are erased as soon as you hear him speak. He is eloquent, yet passionate and always respectful. Those three things alone will make him a better teacher than many in the profession today.

“The life of a teacher appeals to me,” Barry said, gazing around Legacy Hall. “I really respect my teachers (growing up in Washington and at Nevada). I’m not a hard sell. I’m not into pushing some kind of product that I don’t believe in. I believe in education, and I’m passionate about it.”

The 23-year-old Barry plans to start his student teaching in the spring in Nevada, and he will graduate next December. He’s unsure whether he will seek employment in the Reno area or go back to Tacoma, Wash., where he grew up. He’s also interested, if pro plans don’t work out, in coaching at the high school level.

Another of Barry’s passions is music. He joined the school choir and participated in musical theatre his last year of high school.

“I didn’t do it before because it’s what nerds did,” Barry said. “I didn’t think it would interest me. I needed some elective credits, and I actually liked it.

“It’s another reason why I’m in secondary education because I could possibly be a drama teacher.

“I don’t know what the scale would be (for me singing), but I’m not tone deaf. I’m no angel, either.”

Barry said the choir went to New York that year and sang at Carnegie Hall with some of the best choirs in the nation. He also got to see some Broadway productions, and that changed his opinion of the performers.

“Before, I thought the Broadway productions were where washed-up actors went,” he said. “It takes tremendous talent to make it on Broadway. There are so many people that have such powerful voices. They’re doing acrobatics and singing/talking at the same time.”

He learned to play the guitar his freshman year at Nevada, but he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t take it on road trips.

“My father always played the guitar,” Barry said. “I was home on Christmas break of my freshman year, and I picked it up. I taught myself and my dad taught me a little.

“There is a time for everything. On the road, it’s time to prepare for the game, not to be playing the guitar.”

And, one thing about Barry, he’s always prepared.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.