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Melrose alum has big goals with Ags

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Barnard impresses, earns scholarship

LAS CRUCES – As far as Clint Barnard is concerned, football is football.

Whether it’s Division I or Division II – eight-man or 11-man, some things about the game never change.

“It’s the same game; it’s a game I’ve always loved,” said Barnard, who as the starting middle linebacker made eight tackles and broke up a pass in New Mexico State’s annual spring game here Saturday night.

Season opener
Aug. 31: New Mexico State at Texas; time, TV TBA

“Everything’s a little more technical at this level, but football is football, especially on the defensive end of the ball. And to come here and be where I am, I’m really thankful.”

Here, being the Division I level, isn’t where many coaches figured Barnard could play just a couple of years ago. Especially at middle linebacker.

It’s not that Barnard struggled in high school ball. He led his team to back-to-back undefeated state championship seasons and was named New Mexico player of the year two years in his division.

That division, however, was what scared the Division I college coaches away.

Barnard was a two-way star in eight-man football at Melrose, a tiny school just outside of Clovis.

“A lot of times, small-town kids don’t get the same opportunity as someone from a bigger city, or bigger school,” said Barnard, who is majoring in biology. “But if someone from a small town has the ability, it seems like a wasted opportunity if they don’t make the most of it.”

Barnard has, but without taking the typical path.

After graduating from Melrose in 2010, he received a scholarship to play quarterback at Division II New Mexico Highlands. He sat out the 2010 season as a redshirt and was moved to linebacker the following season.

“But I always wanted to be a Division I player,” he said.

Even knowing he would have to sit out another season as a redshirt transfer, Barnard came to New Mexico State last fall and played on the scout team.

His work-ethic, leadership and physical skills were impressive.

“There are so many guys who get overlooked, and it’s a matter of the right timing, the right opportunity,” says NMSU defensive coordinator David Elson. “It says a lot about Clint. He persevered.”

And he was rewarded with the scholarship – a moment Elson says he’ll never forget.

“I made the point to him that over my career, I’ve seen guys just happy to get the scholarship, and then they go into cruise control,” Elson said. “I literally was a little bit nervous for my safety when I said that to Clint. He looked at me, leaned up in his chair, ‘Coach I’m here to be the best I can, to start and to be a leader.’ I said, ‘That’s the(middle) linebacker right there.’ He really wants to be great.”

First-year head coach Doug Martin agrees.

“He’s one of the throwback players, old school,” Martin said. “He wants to be coached, and he’ll take any challenge you throw down at him. As a coach, you don’t ever have to worry about, ‘Is he in class, is he doing the right things off the field, on the field?’ He’s one of those guys you rely on as a coach to help you win.”

Barnard says he knows he has plenty of work ahead before he can lock down a starting spot next fall. But for now, the 6-foot-2, 234-pounder is living the dream.

Of his, and many a small-town boy.

“I’m here to prove to myself that I can do it,” he said. “And I want to prove to every kid playing small-town football that they can do it, too. I would love to go back and tell all those kids at Melrose High School that if they want to have a dream, they can achieve it.”

NOTES: The Aggies’ offense beat the defense 68-65 in the spring game, which awarded points to both sides for a variety of factors. The game was decided when kicker Maxwell Johnson booted a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

… NMSU alternated four quarterbacks, with rising senior Andrew Manley going 14-of-24 passing for a team-high 198 yards, one touchdown and one pick. Junior Travaughn Colwell was 19-of-28 for 161 yards with one interception and rushed for 95 yards. Andrew McDonald was 11-of-17 for 160 yards and a score.

… Two former metro area prep standouts led the receivers. Joshua Bowen (Manzano) had nine catches for 126 yards; Adam Shapiro (Rio Rancho) caught five balls for 101 yards.
Melrose alum has big goals with Agsrobin zielinski/las cruces sun-newsClint Barnard (48), who played eight-man football at Melrose HIgh, started at middle linebacker for New Mexico State during the Aggies’ spring football game Saturday in Las Cruces.

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