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Former Buffalo Barnard finding way at Army

 

October 23, 2019

Courtesy: Army athletics

Cade Barnard, who once played for Melrose High, is now a West Point sophomore and a situational running back for the Army football team.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Cade Barnard has something in common with Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Dwight Eisenhower and Norman Schwarzkopf.

Like those famous generals, Barnard chose to be a West Pointer, chose to begin his college days as a plebe.

The former Melrose High football standout fielded several offers to play running back in college, including one from Navy, with a chance to play in the program that once starred Roger Staubach. Barnard had another offer from UMass, where Victor Cruz played before he was snagging an Eli Manning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVI.

There were offers from Texas-El Paso, New Mexico State, Bowling Green, and even local Eastern New Mexico.

Barnard, though, couldn't pass up the chance to play for Army. He wanted to be part of something a little different, something kind of unique.

"I guess really it's just a lifestyle choice," Barnard said in a telephone interview last week, just before an early-evening practice. "When I was recruited to play at Army, the coaches told me it was going to be tough, it was going to be mentally and physically challenging, and I decided that was the way I wanted to go. I think West Point offers something no one else can.

"It really is a very tight culture here. When I think about why I came here over those other places, it's because of that tight culture. It makes me happy about my decision."

There are rigors, more than say the usual ones presented by midterms and finals and term papers at Kegger State. Barnard and his classmates, after all, are being trained as future officers of the United States Armed Forces, trained perhaps for even more, like the 18th and 34th presidents were.

Aside from all that comes with being a cadet, Barnard also has to study and train for playing Division I college football, for being one of the nation's Division I running backs.

"It's a little more strenuous than I thought it would be," he said, "especially at West Point when you have so many other things to worry about. It takes a lot out of your body and out of your mind ... but I'm happy that I'm doing it."

Barnard was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and says his family moved to Melrose when he was four or five.

He grew up amidst the tranquil farmlands of western Curry County, and gravitated toward football, basketball and track. In the small-school ranks of Melrose, he had a chance to play traditional football minus three - the Buffaloes compete at the eight-man level.

As part of head coach Dickie Roybal's Melrose program, Barnard contributed to state championships in 2014 and '15, his freshman and sophomore seasons.

In 2016 Barnard's family moved to Seminole, Texas, and his eight-man career was history, though it has lived on in his head.

"Man, I remember playing eight-man football as early as my eighth-grade year on the varsity team," Barnard said. "Coach Roybal, I still say he's one of the best coaches I've ever been coached by. I still keep in touch with the guys who were in my classes; it was such a small town. Obviously the two state championships and the friends I made are what I remember most."

So it was goodbye Melrose and hello Seminole, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, even though Barnard was sad to leave his friends and town behind.

"Texas football is a different beast," he said. "The competition level, it made me better. But as far as playing eight-man (previously), it was a blast."

The 2016 Seminole Indians finished 9-3 after losing their Texas 4A D2 Region 1 final, 38-14, to Sweetwater. The 2017 team wound up 11-2, also losing the Region 1 championship that year, 49-36 to Bushland.

Barnard didn't play as an Army freshman last season, but he gets carries, albeit sparingly, this year as a 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound sophomore. He has played in five of the Black Knights' seven games and has transformed just 13 carries into 77 yards - an impressive 5.9 yards per carry - and one touchdown. He has not rushed for any negative yardage thus far, and his longest single gain has been 24 yards.

Barnard's busiest game, and not surprisingly his most productive, was against Morgan State on Sept. 21 when he carried eight times for 62 yards (7.8 per carry) and that one touchdown in a 52-21 Army victory.

It's a crowded running back position, with several players capable of doing damage when they get handoffs. Army's top three rushers this season are Connor Slomka (425 yards, 3 touchdowns), Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (354, 5 TDs) and Sandon McCoy (285, 4).

"Sandon's my roommate when we travel," Barnard said, "and Connor is probably one of my best friends and definitely a guy I look up to on the team.

"We have some good running backs on the team. I come in as a third-down back; when we need a one-yard gain, I go in there and get it for them. Or I can come in there as the refresher. Just doing my role wherever the team needs me. It's been a good sophomore season so far."

Army, with No. 7 Michigan among its opponents, is 3-4 through last weekend. Despite their sub-.500 record and current three-game losing streak, the Black Knights have been competitive in every game, falling to Michigan 24-21 in overtime and losing 42-33, 17-8 and 28-21 to respective opponents Tulane, Western Kentucky and Georgia State during their recent skid.

"As long as we keep motivated and keep working, we'll be alright," Barnard said.

Regarding what Barnard will do when his college days and military commitment are over, his plans are a bit hazy.

"That's something that I may have to figure out later," he said. "I have an idea, but it's just an idea."

 
 

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