Q&A with prospect Sam Barrington: 'Trying to make sure I'm prepared'
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For all of Rick Spielman's success finding gems in the NFL Draft's late rounds, the Minnesota Vikings' record with linebackers has been spotty in recent years.
Jasper Brinkley (fifth round in 2009) started one season before leaving for Arizona last month. Nate Triplett (fifth in 2010) and Ross Homan (sixth in 2011) failed to make the team in camp. Audie Cole (seventh in 2012) played in only five games on special teams as a rookie.
That's contributed to the Vikings' lack of depth at the position, which they're sure to try to fix again next week. And if Spielman takes another shot in the late rounds, one name to keep in mind is South Florida's Sam Barrington.
He played all three spots throughout his college career and projects as either a 4-3 outside linebacker or 3-4 inside linebacker. Seventeen teams attended South Florida's pro day, where Barrington (6-1, 246) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds and posted a 37-inch vertical.
The Vikings spoke with Barrington at the combine and have shown more interest than most 4-3 teams, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
During a break from his workouts in Tampa, Barrington spent some time chatting with 1500ESPN.com. Here's an edited Q&A:
How are you holding up through the pre-draft process?
I'm doing good. Assuming that I get picked up by a team, there's going to be a short point in time where I have to leave after the draft. So, I'm just trying to make sure I'm prepared to take that leap.
Is it strange being around guys who are still in school while you're preparing for this?
Yeah, it's a little bit of change, but I try not to go around (the football facility) too much and just let them do their thing and whatnot. I show my presence sometimes, and when I do, I know it's appreciated, because I try to help out any way I can. They had their spring game this weekend, and I really enjoyed going back to that.
But now you're like the old guy coming back and hanging around the kids, right?
Yeah, it's crazy, because I was always seen as the old guy when I was here. Everybody said, 'Ah, Old Man Sam.'
I assume you know you have to keep yourself in pretty good shape. Even though it's been months since your last game, you know you need to be ready for rookie minicamp right after the draft.
Oh, yeah, definitely. Trust me, I understand that wholeheartedly.
Take me back -- how did you end up at South Florida?
I graduated high school in 2009. I had offers from just about every school in Florida, a lot of ACC teams, lot of Big East teams. I could have put myself in position to go just about anywhere over the whole country. What I really emphasized when I was making my decision is just to somewhere you're comfortable, you won't have any regrets and you'll have a bright future ahead of you. That's all things that I can't forecast, but I can definitely see if they have certain qualities that'll make me happy and have my content at the time. I examined the guys I was coming in to USF with. I was fortunate enough to come here when (coach Jim Leavitt, who started the football program in 1997) had his last year here and that was just a great experience. I played a lot my first year, wound up starting the finale game of my freshman year, and everything went well. I was able to jump in early and contribute to the team. Regardless of what type of record we had, the whole time I was here, I was just fortunate to be able to attend such a great program and really going phenomenal places.
What kind of scheme did you guys run down there?
We always ran a typical 4-3 scheme with the ability to play some 3-4. We always had a lot of defensive guys and defensive ends that could potentially rush off the edge.
Did you always work at one spot?
Definitely no. I played all three linebacker positions my whole time here. I actually played all three positions as a senior as well, but finishing my senior year, I played will linebacker.
Is that where you're most comfortable? Where do you think you're the best?
I think I'm a best inside 'backer. But I pride myself in having the physical tools and physical ability, as well as the football IQ to play that outside position and matching up with slot receivers and potentially tight ends as well.
So, as you talk with NFL teams, are you hearing you're going to play inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3?
Yes, sir. Inside or outside 'backer on a 4-3 and predominantly an inside 'backer in a 3-4.
What's the most common question teams are asking you?
Once it gets to this point, it's kind of really choppy. Every team has different things they want to know. One team, they just wanted to know how well I could understand the defense and how well I could break it down and whatnot and learn their terms and see if I could be able to regurgitate it efficiently just after learning them after 2 or 3 minutes.
You had some issues off the field -- four arrests for driving with a revoked or suspended license. What do you tell teams when they ask about that?
Just that it's simply, I made a mistake. I wasn't taking care of my business as far as just handling those things at the time they should have been handled. The small things led to bigger problems. I suffered for it both socially and financially and I'm a better person as a result of that situation. With the help of my agent (Christian Phillips), I'm in a better situation. I just hope they give me the chance to show that to them, because you can't change the past. All you can do is provide a brighter future for yourself.
On some level, then, do you have to sell yourself to teams more personally than professionally?
Well, I always think when you're going through a process like this, you always want to sell yourself, but you don't want to sell yourself outside of who you truly are, because if they're looking for a specific guy and you're selling yourself to be something you're not -- once you do get in that locker room or you get in that environment and you're not that guy really, it's going to show and then maybe your time there won't last long. So, it's just important just to be yourself and just work so hard on becoming a solid individual that, when you be yourself, it speaks volumes.
How'd you feel about the numbers you put up at the combine and your pro day?
I was definitely more satisfied with my numbers at my pro day after the combine (where he ran the 40 in 4.91 seconds). I improved all my numbers. But to be able to go in there and perform on the stage at the combine, I was happy with it and I was happy I was able to reach that point. Those weren't the numbers that I was satisfied with. It was lower than I thought I was going to put up. I came out and used some time to get back where I wanted to be and I had a great pro day.
Where are you going to watch the draft?
I plan to have a little family around and we'll watch it or whatnot. I probably won't watch the whole thing. I don't know. I'm just looking to enjoy that time, because I'm part of a small percentage of individuals that get to experience something like this. Years ago, I was watching those names and watching guys that I played high school football with and that I idolized coming up have their names called. So, just to have my name called in any type of fashion or even have a chance, I'm grateful for it.