Some good news floated across the timeline Saturday morning.
Welcome @BarrySwavey to the family! He will be joining our position training staff to work with LBs and our WA7v7 teams this off season! #TeachersOfTheGame #WarrenAcademyStrong#Huskers #Blackshirts #WA7v7 #WarrenAcademyTrained #ProAthletes #NFL #NFLAlumni #NebPreps #IowaPreps pic.twitter.com/PzqNbXOkHq
— Warren Academy (@Warren_Academy) September 26, 2020
“I love helping people get better,” Mo Barry told me. “Ever since high school, I just like helping my teammates. For some reason, it makes me happier getting someone better. I’m grinding, I’m finding the solution, I’m finding ways for myself to get better, and I feel like as soon as you find the solution, why not help someone else get better?”
Barry thinks back to growing up in Georgia. He didn’t have someone beyond the high school coaching staff to train him. What he knew and what he learned came from him putting in the work and him reaching out for guidance on his own. Where he grew up, football is year-round. The talent factory that is football in the Atlanta area sees kids learn in the offseason and then apply their new skills with their high schools.
What Barry didn’t have, he wants to make sure local area kids here in Nebraska have.
“I just want to help the game in the Omaha/Lincoln area, just help it grow and help these kids go somewhere after high school,” he said.
Barry reached out to Warren. He told him he was interested in helping out, whatever that meant. Barry will train linebackers and he’ll coach with the Warren Academy 7-on-7 team, a traveling squad that would, under normal circumstances, go anywhere in the country.
“When a kid wants to train with me, (Warren will) set me and the kid and the parent together, and we’re going to have times (to train together),” he said. “I’m going to be his mentor and his football coach.”
Barry has a daughter at home. (So sleep is still an adventure.) He gets his real estate license in October. Barry has been hurt most by COVID-19’s impact on the NFL, but in all the time I’ve come to know him, he’s never played the victim.
This NFL season was always going to be unkind to newcomers trying to carve out their own path in the league. Guys who heard their names called on draft day had at least some security. Fringe guys were going to be left in the cold.
Lamar Jackson and Darrion Daniels were cut and signed to practice squads.
With a normal offseason and preseason, would Jackson—widely regarded as a mid-round draft selection in the run-up to the festivities—be in such a volatile situation?
No preseason games. No rookie minicamp. No OTAs. Little in the way of proving ground.
Out of all years I promise you this will be one of the most slimey, no Mini camps, no OTA’s, and no preseason! It’s gone be a lot of ballers out of work this year due too circumstances that’s above them.🙏🏽
— Lamar Jackson (@CaptainJack36_) September 6, 2020
You can bet guys in Barry’s position appreciated that acknowledgment from Jackson.
“I just tell him, at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure he’s going to get an opportunity in whatever form that comes in,” former Husker and current Dallas Cowboy Luke Gifford told Hail Varsity during the summer. “Whether he gets drafted, whether he’s a free agent or whatever, but Mo is this kind of guy that can succeed because he works so hard and he wants it so bad. What I tell him is, at the end of the day, he’s going to get his opportunity that he wants, and he can do as much with it as he wants to.
“I think that’s the comforting thing. For Mo, he knows that when he gets the opportunity, he’s going to work harder than anybody and he’s going to dedicate himself to it. I’m excited for him.”
Make no mistake: Barry still has interest. If teams viewed him as a player without NFL potential, his agent’s phone wouldn’t be ringing. It is. But Barry is realistic in that he knows he hasn’t played meaningful snaps since Nebraska’s 2019 season ended on the field against Iowa in November of 2019.
Other guys on camp invites at least had two weeks of ball before being cut.
Barry will stay in football shape and wait for his opportunity, perhaps when some normalcy returns and the NFL can return to standard operating procedures. The Nebraska linebacker, regardless of what anyone thinks about his coverage ability or his 40 time (two things that don’t really come up with NFL folks), has at least earned a chance with his play on the field and his dedication to the game beyond it.
He had 201 tackles in his final two seasons at Nebraska. Only Northwestern’s Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher, and Purdue’s Ben Holt (who played at Western Kentucky in 2018) had more over the same period in the Big Ten.
No one who has watched Barry play football over the last two seasons has been able to doubt his heart.
“Hopefully I get that chance,” he said, “but if not, I’m never going to be a victim to that. I see success in different ways and helping kids understand that is something I’m going to do well.”
It’s in keeping with a promise he made to his mother when he chose Nebraska out of high school. “He trusts them,” she told me ahead of his Senior Day. “He promised me he’s going to do his best by them because they gave him a chance.”
It seems that mindset carries on even after he’s graduated. Wouldn’t expect anything less from Barry, though.
Why did he reach out to Warren? “To help kids around this area, to help this community that has uplifted me, to help their kids get scholarships and help their kids learn the game and have fun playing the game.”
I remember during the 2019 Hail Varsity Yearbook photoshoot, we asked his teammates to give us their best Barry impression. Almost everyone had a different take on the fiery linebacker. He plays the game with so much passion, you know he’ll approach coaching the same way.
“This makes me feel fulfilled,” he says. “Right now, I’m not playing the game of football, which I love. What’s the next best thing? It’s just being around football, helping kids get better, helping people work their craft. It’s not about me, it’s about them and what I can give to them.
“I’m never gonna be a player they’ll say ‘All he had to offer the world was football.’”
You root hard for guys like that.