Barrett does it all for Tigers

It was one of the more minor decisions Steve Boyle had to make entering his first year as the Howland football coach.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult though.

Boyle, a former assistant football coach at three different colleges and an assistant at Howland last season, has evaluated his share of players over the years. This one, in particular, had him stumped.

One of the leaders in his first year as head coach, Nathan Barrett, will be doing plenty for the Tigers this season. The senior is a returning starter at wide receiver and as a linebacker on defense. So, just which side of the ball is he better?

“I wouldn’t say he’s better at one or the other,” said Boyle as we wrestled with the question. “It’s hard for me to tell right now. He’s been primarily a defensive weapon for us the past year. A lot of people look at him as a defensive guy, but from his skills at playing basketball, that gives him great ball skills to play at the wide receiver position as well.”

In other words, he couldn’t decide, which isn’t really a bad thing.

Barrett will be a guiding light for a Howland team trying to find its way back into the playoff hunt. He’s one of just 11 returning lettermen and seven starters, but Barrett said he’s starting to see a young team come together.

“I really do like (the potential of this team),” Barrett said. “I feel like a lot of people might be doubting us this year, but really only we know what we can do, and I think we’re going to come out and surprise a lot of people.”

Barrett is going to have to play a big role for that to happen, and Boyle isn’t doubting his capabilities.

Also a starter on the basketball team, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior has all types of athleticism. He blends that with an acute sense for the game of football to create an instinctual, versatile player with an array of skills.

“We’re really hoping he’s going to anchor our defense on the strong side of it,” Boyle said. “I’m really counting on him to do that. He’s got great hands because he’s also a basketball player. He just made a great catch the other day against Struthers (in a scrimmage). He laid completely out and caught it, but at the same time he did a great job tackling as well. He’s one of those kids that’ll be special from this area.”

It’s easy to understand Boyle’s optimism considering Barrett’s junior year.

He made 69 tackles and 11 sacks on defense and added 19 catches for 302 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver.

Barrett said he learned a lot from previous players, specifically Chris Julian, who starred for Howland over the past three seasons as an outside linebacker and defensive end. Aside from picking up different ways to beat offensive linemen and get to the quarterback, Barrett said the leadership skills from Julian and other seniors from last year has helped him carry on the tradition at Howland.

“I try to just do my best just to be a role model and try to pass on the leadership skills, so they can pass them on too,” he said. “I think I’m doing a good job. I hope I am. I’m just trying to lead by example.”

He certainly gets Boyle’s approval.

He raved about his all-around ability on defense, offense and as a leader. Barrett has the speed to cover receivers, the size to shed blockers and make big hits and the quickness to rush the quarterback. On offense, he can use his frame to bully most defenders, speed to run past them and ball skills to make catches over them.

“He’s not a kid that you’ve got to tell him what to do a lot of the times,” Boyle said. “He sort of just gets it. He knows where to put himself. There’s still things he needs to add to, but he’s a big, long kid. He runs well. He’s a great athlete. He’s one of those kids that if you put him in any sport, he’s going to be successful. He’s just one of those types of kids.”