Though he’s heading into his third National Football League season, Allen Barbre is going to have to make plenty of adjustments this season.
That’s because the 25-year-old, a member of the Green Bay Packers, switched positions during the offseason. But it’s a position he’s used to playing.
Barbre, a member of Louisiana’s Tunica Biloxi Tribe, is now a right tackle on the club’s offensive line.
During his first two seasons with the Packers, Barbre, who packs close to 310 pounds onto his 6-foot-4 frame, was also on the offensive line, but as a left guard. He was utilized sparingly, however, and saw the majority of his action as a special teams player.
“I feel a lot more comfortable now,” said Barbre, who made the move during the Packers’ mini-camp in May.
And he’s hoping to become a regular starter with the Packers.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Barbre said.
The Green Bay coaching staff believe he can challenge for the starting right tackle position this season.
Packers’ offensive line coach James Campen is the one who suggested Barbre switch positions.
“It was a little different coming in from the right side,” Barbre said of his recent mini-camp experiences.
But Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy was impressed.
“Allen’s had a very positive camp,” McCarthy told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “You never try to get too excited too fast, because you don’t want to create unrealistic expectations, but every day in the film sessions with the coaches, Allen Barbre has done a very good job so far.”
Barbre has become accustomed to turning heads and exceeding expectations since his college days. Not many would have predicted he’d end up in the pro ranks while he was playing right tackle at Missouri Southern State University, a Division II school.
Barbre had not been highly recruited coming out of high school and ended up in the Division II ranks. But he became a dominant player and earned all-American status.
Though he was not starring at a higher profile Division I school, Barbre said his dream of playing pro intensified during the later stages of his college career.
“I really realized I had potential to play (in the NFL),” he said. “I really focused and got bigger and stronger.”
Following his fourth year of college ball, Barbre was invited to the NFL’s combine camp in Indianapolis. There he joined other college players hoping to impress pro scouts.
Barbre did just that and the Packers selected him in the fourth round, 119th overall, in the 2007 NFL draft. He became the third football player to be drafted from his school and the first to be chosen by Green Bay.
Though the Packers are one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, Barbre admits he didn’t realize how rich of a history the organization had.
“I didn’t even realize the tradition and history until I got here. I’m also learning still. I recommend you take the (Packers’) hall of fame tour. You can learn a lot from that.”
And playing the Packers’ home games at Lambeau Field is also quite a thrill. “That’s a historical place to play.”
The Packers have some of the most supportive fans around – who often call themselves Cheeseheads.
No doubt these fans are hoping the Packers are able to improve on their 6-10 record from 2008. But Green Bay’s mark from last season was not as bad as it appears. The Packers lost several games by less than a touchdown.
The club had a major distraction throughout the season because one of the most popular Packers ever, quarterback Brett Favre, was involved in somewhat of a controversy.
Favre retired before the ’08 season, then when the Packers announced Aaron Rodgers would be the starting quarterback, Favre changed his mind and wanted to rejoin the squad.
Favre was eventually traded to the New York Jets, where he played last season.
The Packers had to consistently answer questions about Favre, especially from those who wondered whether he would have made a difference in numerous late-game situations that could have dramatically improved Green Bay’s record.
Barbre said Rodgers fared well at the club’s mini-camp in May.
“Aaron is doing good, and he’s got more experience under his belt now.”
And that, in part, explains the optimism in Green Bay over the upcoming year.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” Barbre said.
The Packers begin the 2009 season with an exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns, at home Aug. 15. Regular season action starts Sept. 13, as the division rival Chicago Bears visit Lambeau Field.