By Rick White
Clovis Media Inc.
Growing up in Melrose, Clint Barnard aspired to play to Division I college football.
His dream just took a little longer than planned.
Barnard, who helped the Buffaloes finish as unbeaten 8-man state champions in his junior and senior seasons in 2008 and 2009, has positioned himself to win the starting middle linebacker position at New Mexico State this fall as a junior.
After playing one season at New Mexico Highlands — plus redshirting a year — Barnard was looking for a bigger challenge on the field and a better classroom curriculum in his major (biology).
He played on the Aggies’ scout team last year as a walk-on while sitting out the year as required by NCAA rules when a player transfers from Division II to Division I.
Barnard, who did not receive any Division I scholarships out of high school, is out to prove an 8-man football player can excel at the Division I level.
What kind of reaction do you get when teammates find out you only played 8-man football in high school?
Some players didn’t even realize there was 8-man football and they are just surprised.
What made you decide to leave Highlands, where you were a starter, and walk-on at New Mexico State?
There were many different reasons for my decision to leave Highlands. Basically, they all compounded together and I just felt like it was the right decision to leave. After that I went through the process of deciding which school to go to next. After talking to the different coaching staffs from several different schools, NMSU was the clear choice academically, financially, and the right fit for me as far as football is concerned.
I imagine you’ll be playing in front of a lot bigger crowds than you did at Melrose and New Mexico Highlands. What do you think that will be like?
I think it will be exciting, playing in front of bigger crowds and the sounds of Division 1 football atmosphere, which is something I’m looking forward to.
Playing at Melrose, did you ever think you’d get a chance to play in a Division I football game?
Yes, I did actually; growing up that’s all I wanted to do. Even though it didn’t happen the way I thought it would, later is better than never.
What’s your favorite memory of playing at Melrose?
Winning back-to-back state championships my junior and senior years.
At some point in time this season, you may be tackling a future NFL player. Not bad for an 8-man player from Melrose, huh?
Well, hopefully I’ll be getting plenty of those tackles this season.
In high school, you were pretty much the biggest (and fastest) player on the field. What’s it like taking on a 300-pound offensive lineman?
Well actually I did take on a 300-pounder in high school everyday in practice, Colby Sneller. However with the techniques I have learned, it’s a lot easier.
What’s been the biggest challenge making the switch from 8-man to 11-man football?
Like I’ve always said the fundamentals of the game don’t change. It doesn’t matter what level of play you are at. However the defensive schemes and coverages are different, but I’m a fast learner.
If a career in football doesn’t work out, what is your fallback plan?
I am currently working toward my degree in biology. I will soon start applying to physical therapy schools.
What is your favorite part about living in Las Cruces? Least favorite?
My favorite part is my friends and the relationships I’ve made. My least favorite is definitely the dry heat during the summer.
Do you think you’ll eventually end up back in Melrose after college?
Well, my family has a ranch still there in Melrose, so being in Melrose will definitely be in the future somewhere along the line.
Who was your favorite college or pro football player when you were growing up?
When teammates ask you what was it like growing up in such a small town, what do you tell them?
I tell them it was fun. It’s a totally different atmosphere, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You come from an athletic family. Who is the best athlete?
My family is very competitive, and I still have younger siblings who are still not in full bloom yet. Therefore, I don’t think it’s fair for me to answer that question yet.