Considering that Craig Fada is headed for medical school and Jarrod Barnes already is working on his doctorate in the college of education and human ecology at Ohio State, one would think their role models would be achievers in their chosen fields.
Perhaps later. At the moment, each wants to be the next Nate Ebner.
He’s the rugby player from Hilliard Davidson who walked on to the Ohio State football team as a junior in 2010, turned heads with his play on special teams, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round in 2012 and now owns two Super Bowl rings.
That thought keeps the football fire burning for Fada, a linebacker, and Barnes, a safety, both of whom were fixtures on the OSU kick-coverage units the past couple of seasons.
“Absolutely, you’ve got that in mind,” Barnes said. “You know, Nate was in the building last week, and I was talking to him about the journey and how he did it. The way I see it, if he can do it, why not me?”
Fada has been rolling down that path for a while.
“What Nate has done, it drives you (and) shows you it can be done,” Fada said. “Like Nate, I walked on here; I played since my freshman year on. Now I look at it as kind of just walking on again, but this time in the NFL. Let’s see if I can get a spot in the league, let’s see if I can make a name for myself, and go from there.”
Barnes and Fada aren’t showing up on any mock drafts. Their goal is to convince a team to take a chance on them with perhaps a late-round pick, as the Patriots did with Ebner, or by offering a free-agent contract once the draft is done in late April.
All they seek is a foot in the door, and it’s why they’ve kept up their fitness regimens. Both also participated in OSU’s pro day last week, along with several projected draft picks from the Buckeyes who worked out in front of nine NFL head coaches, seven general managers and 122 assistants and scouts.
“I caught myself smiling, understanding that I was working out with two potential first-rounders during the position drills,” Barnes said of OSU cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. “People might not have known me going in, but I just wanted to put it out there. I really enjoyed the experience.”
Both Fada and Barnes seem destined for success regardless of whether their NFL dreams come true. But neither wants to someday regret missing out on a chance to play football a while longer.
“I always want to challenge and push myself to where 10 years from now I can look back and say, ‘You know what? I gave it everything I have. I took my shot,’ ” Barnes said. “And I’ll be able to go to bed happy.”