Prep Signing: Carson's Barnhardt to play football at Averett

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE — Carson’s Chris Barnhardt saw a photo in the Post recently of four Cougars posing together (along with West Rowan’s Hobie Proctor) after deciding to play their college football at Division III Averett University in Danville, Va.
He figured he should join the club.
“I wanted to stay with my teammates,” Barnhardt said, referring to Dontae Gilbert, T.J. Smith, Zach Blythe and Daniel Rodriguez. “I’ll know somebody in college to help me out not only on the football field but in the classroom.”
In fact, he may have the best shot of any of them at starting. Barnhardt is a fullback and that’s what Averett was looking for while recruiting him.
“They said they had a middle linebacker starting at fullback and didn’t have anybody yet who had committed,” Barnhardt said. “They’re like, ‘You’re almost guaranteed to start.’ Then, another guy committed so it will be some good competition.”
Carson running backs coach Ben Hampton, who lugged the ball in high school and college, knows the competition will be there for the 5-10, 230-pound Barnhardt.
“He’s got the opportunity to be successful at any position he wants to play if he’s willing to work,” Hampton said of the Carson bruiser. “That’s the key to it. A lot of our guys will have their eyes opened once they get there.”
Barnhardt had been a linebacker but Mark Woody’s staff invited him to some 7-on-7s last summer.
Woody and Hampton had found their fullback.
“He’s got great hands, decent speed and size,” Hampton said. “We knew he’d be hard to tackle. He runs with good lean.”
With Brandon Sloop and Travis Abbitt doing most of the toting, Barnhardt got only 43 tries but he averaged around five yards per carry. Against talented West Iredell, he chugged the ball 15 times for 119 yards and scored twice.
And he apparently did it with a bum knee. Barnhardt injured the ACL playing basketball as a junior (“I didn’t know,” he said) and the meniscus as a senior against Salisbury.
“Call it what it was — a blown-out knee,” Barnhardt laughed.
He played out the season and had surgery the day after it ended.
“It’s feeling good,” Barnhardt said earlier this week after a stint in the weight room. “It’s got full motion.”
Now, he is ready to take advantage of his college chance. Add junior Zack Grkman, and Barnhardt becomes the sixth Carson player on that roster.
“I don’t think I’m where I should be because I goofed off my freshman and sophomore year,” Barnhardt acknowledged. “My junior and senior year, I pushed it.”
Hopefully enough to push his way into the Averett starting lineup as a freshman.