For Michael Barnard, his football career has been an unusual road. It all began his junior year in football because of a
misunderstanding with the soccer coach, which led to him quitting the team.
Barnard was a starter for the varsity soccer team at Rancocas Valley Regional High School since his freshman year. When news about Barnard leaving the soccer team found its way to the football coach, he immediately reacted.
“The football coach got word that a good soccer player quit the team and the next thing I know I had voicemails on my phone saying come kick for the football team,” Barnard said. “It took me a few weeks because I was a little nervous and it was a whole new sport. I said I would give it a shot and next thing you know I’m making a 49-yard field goal and went 8-12 on the season.”
That 49-yard field goal is still the record at Rancocas Valley Regional High School.
Barnard did not receive too much attention during college recruitment because of his late start to his football career, but the young kicker eventually chose to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Although Indiana University of Pennsylvania has a good Division II football program, Barnard didn’t feel like he was growing as a kicker.
“I ended up transferring out of there because it didn’t feel like the right situation,” said Barnard, who decided to study at a community college while searching for his next school. His ex-girlfriend was enrolled at Fairleigh Dickinson, which led
to him meeting Head Coach Rich Mosca.
The kicker left his DVD for Mosca and the rest was history. Barnard received several calls from the coach and decided to
join the football team.
Although FDU’s football program struggled to find success, Barnard continued to improve as a kicker. Barnard broke most of the school’s records for kicking, including the longest field goal at 47 yards, and received Special Teams Player of the Week honors five times.
Barnard’s most memorable moment is when FDU began the season 4-0 and he converted a 43-yard field goal to win the opening game of the year. He finished his college career making 19 of 24 field goal attempts, which is good for 79 percent.
Shortly after graduating from FDU, Barnard realized he could pursue his goal of making an NFL roster. Barnard began working out extensively throughout the offseason, and eventually made the decision to move down to his grandmother’s house in Florida so that he was able to train in the winter.
“I didn’t have to go but it was a decision I made,” Barnard said. “It was based on me not being able to kick in the winter when there was snow on the ground here. It just got to the point where I had family down in Florida and they are telling me to go down there because there’s beautiful weather all the time. It just kind of worked out that way and it was actually a blessing in disguise because I got very close with
When Barnard first began training he would kick 200 balls per day. Eventually he made a connection with former NFL kickers Michael Husted and Mike Hollis. They helped him learn what it took to become a kicker for a professional team.
Hollis said about Barnard, “I think Michael has a great chance to make a team because of his size and athletic ability.”
Hollis later added, “Hopefully Michael will get an opportunity whether it’s in Green Bay or wherever, to get into camp and show what he can do. He’s definitely got the size and ability to be an NFL kicker.”
Barnard would travel to California and Florida to learn from the two former NFL kickers. They motivated him to continue pursuing his professional career and not to back down because of where he came from.
“I started to realize they were comparing me to some top notch NFL guys and they said if you just stay at this you have a chance,” Barnard said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or how you got here, they just said the goal posts are the same
size at every level. They told me if you just hone your skills and really take in everything we taught you, you have a chance
because they saw I had a strong leg from the start.”
After training with several former NFL kickers, Barnard was invited to the Super Regional Combine, which was held at Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions).
Barnard has received several invitations to tryout with NFL teams since his strong performance at the combine. The list includes the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals.
The Eagles tryout was one of Barnard’s most unforgettable moments in his career because he grew up close to Philadelphia. Barnard put forth a dominating showing, and he arguably outperformed the Eagles current kicker Alex Henry.
Barnard went 30-32 during the threeday minicamp and 4-4 from 54 yards or more.
Barnard explained, “I was in minicamp last year with the Philadelphia Eagles and it was amazing.” He went on to say, “It’s very hard to get into an NFL minicamp. They did their homework on me and talked to some of my coaches. It was a great experience, one that I really took full advantage of.”
Barnard can’t seem to find a home in the NFL, but his leg is also too strong for the Arena Football League. While playing for the Philadelphia Soul, Barnard would often hit the roof or scoreboards that were above the playing field. Barnard can also
kick 65-yard field goals, while the AFL’s regulated fields are 58 yards.
Eagles Special Teams Coach Bobby April stated, “Michael was given a huge test in Eagles Camp and passed it with flying colors.” April added, “He showed tremendous leg strength and accuracy and that he is more than ready to kick in the NFL right now.”
It’s been a long road for Barnard, but he feels like he is inching closer to the main prize, which is signing a multi-year
deal in the NFL.
In the beginning it was hard for the kicker to stay motivated because he felt professional football was all political. That
has all changed in the mind of Barnard; he now believes he is on the verge of making an NFL team.
“I realized talent can only be denied for so long,” Barnard said. “I’m worried about going head to head with the best kickers in the NFL, that’s the level I’m at right now and there are a ton of teams that know I can be that good. When the Green
Bay Packers brought in three kickers for the first time in seven years since they drafted Mason Crosby, that told me something right there. My name is more than in that circle and it won’t be long until I’m signing with an NFL team to a multi-year deal.”
During FDU’s Homecoming Weekend, Barnard and others were honored by being on the 40th anniversary team. Student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who have “made a significant impact on Devils Football over the past 40 years” were recognized, according to fdudevils.com.
Barnard has transformed from a soccer player trying to find a home in high school to a football kicker on the verge of signing an NFL contract.
His hard work is starting to pay off, but there is so much more Barnard wants to accomplish.
Kicking is Barnard’s life now, he is focused on one goal: to make the NFL.
If you want to continue to follow Barnard’s story you can find him on Twitter and Instagram by searching @kickerwitstyle.