When Scott Frost looks down from his office into the Ndamukong Suh Strength and Conditioning Center, if the defense is in there, he sees a group that’s hungry. He sees an energy unlike what he saw last season. He sees senior linebacker Mohamed Barry.
To be fair, it’s hard to miss Barry. He belongs on the first-guy-off-the-bus team, and when he explodes in a game he’s electric, and when he hits a dude in the backfield they feel it, and he’s around the ball a lot. He’s loud. Both in play and in voice. Not loud like a guy with nothing to say who just wants to be the center of attention, loud like a guy who tells his peers what they need to hear.
“I always stood for something and I always spoke my mind when need be,” he said during Nebraska’s recent trip to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days. “I was never scared to tell people to follow the rules or do this to help the team win. I’m always genuine.”
And everyone in the building appreciates that. It’s what makes Barry such an authority figure on not just the defense, but the team. It’s what made his selection as one of the three Husker representatives for the two-day-long media event seem like a no-brainer.
He redshirted in 2015 after shoulder surgery, and has just kept working. He was asked about any feedback he got from NFL scouts this offseason; he brushed the question off. The Big Ten’s fourth-leading tackler from a season ago didn’t care about that this offseason. Is there anything he feels like he has to show people as a senior? He said he worked to become more impactful in pass coverage this spring and summer but if his play last year didn’t show what he’s capable of, he said, the problem is with the scout and not him.
And yet after everything — 37 appearances in a possible 37 games his first three years, more tackles last season than a Husker had had since 2011, a seemingly-impending captain role — Barry still finds himself motivated to do more.
The team success is one component. Nebraska is obsessed with winning and Barry has made no bones about his desire to be in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game this season. But a lot of the drive is intrinsic.
“I remember being a young kid in Georgia, DeKalb County watching the Georgia Bulldogs play. I wanted to be a running back back then, so everything Knowshon Moreno did, I was doing also. I loved Mohamed Massaquoi because he had my name, so when he was doing stuff, I did it also,” Barry said. “So I know what those young kids are looking for, and I know how we impact them so much.
“I want to give them the best version of me, so when I talk, when I play, everything, I know they’re looking at that. That’s honestly what I think about. I think about the younger me. Do I make the younger me happy? Do I motivate the younger me? That’s what matters.”
He called it an honor to be in Chicago, and referenced other senior Huskers who wanted to be there in his place. Outside linebacker Alex Davis was named, so was corner Lamar Jackson and defensive tackle Darrion Daniels. For him to be there representing them, he said, is something he’s proud of.
Because he knows he isn’t just representing them.
“I’m a Blackshirt,” he said. “I’m in a long line of great linebackers, Barrett Ruud to Lavonte David to me. I represent them and I represent this legacy that we’ve created.”
And that won’t stop even when his Nebraska career ends.
“I owe this university so much,” he said when asked why he’s still helping recruit young guys as a senior. “They gave me a chance when other schools didn’t. I was almost going to be a JUCO product, but they believed in me and gave me a clear-cut path to get eligible and come to this university. Everything I am is because I’ve developed as a man — mentally, physically — through this program and for me to be selfish and say, ‘I’m done when my year is done,’ is stupid. I owe this team, I owe this program a lot and to make sure this program is great from here on out.”
So Barry hosts high school kids. Barry is part of the pitch to come to Nebraska. He’s a selling point for defensive players — “come here and grow and shine how he did.”
“For me to mold young leaders in the inside linebacker room, for me to make sure my young guys are good and they have the right mentality and they know that when it’s their turn, they gotta tell this young guy this so we keep on going,” he said. “I owe this university everything, it’s an honor to be here and I’m going to continue to give my all for this school.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.