Don Barclay Ready for NFL Playoff Debut - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Don Barclay Ready for NFL Playoff Debut

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MORGANTOWN -

It was only a few weeks ago that Don Barclay's role with the Green Bay Packers stopped at special teams.

Thirteen games into the season, the former West Virginia offensive lineman had made his biggest contributions blocking on field goals, not for an All-Pro quarterback. But in week 14, that all changed. Now, he is preparing to start in an NFC wild card playoff game.

Barclay took over the starting right tackle position for the Packers when Bryan Bulaga went down with an injury that opened the way for an eager rookie to make a name for himself. He did.

After that initial start against Detroit, one in which Green Bay's rushing attack broke out to total 140 yards, Aaron Rodgers singled out one offensive lineman in his postgame interview on the field.

"I think Donny has really been playing well the last couple of weeks," Rodgers said.

Barclay obviously wasn't standing by listening to his quarterback as he sang his praises on NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast, but he read about it as he was flooded with tweets following his performance.

"That was pretty sweet," Barclay admits now. "It's pretty cool to hear your name come out of Aaron Rodgers' mouth. He's a really good guy, he's a hard worker and he's just fun to be around. He makes the game more enjoyable."

With Barclay in the starting lineup, the Packers have gone 3-1, the loss coming this past week to Saturday's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.

In that game, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings were chasing not only a single season rushing record, but also a spot in the playoffs, and now they'll take on a team that split the season series with them.

"The last game, from a whole offensive standpoint, we played pretty good putting up 34 points," Barclay says. "It wasn't good enough then, but I think if we stick to our game plan, we'll be all right. Being at home will help us a lot since we'll be outside and it'll be cold."

A fair point from Barclay, who understands the significance of Green Bay's Lambeau Field in the playoffs. Having grown up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, the former Mountaineer is getting accustomed to living in one of professional football's most decorated towns.

As he learns about the community living with his fiancée, Brea, he also becomes more aware of exactly what it means to the people of Green Bay to call himself a Packer and through that, he gains an appreciation for what Saturday's atmosphere will bring.

"The atmosphere here at Lambeau is pretty sweet. It's what football is all about come playoffs. The cold and home field advantage – it's pretty cool," he says, slipping back into the mindset of a high school player with lofty dreams. "It's crazy. It's hard to imagine. I think at the beginning of the year, if you had asked me if I'd be in this position, I'd say no."

If you asked specifically if he'd be at the right tackle position just a few weeks ago, he'd likely say no, too. Barclay had been preparing himself for a job at guard, but in truth, he was known to the staff as the guy who could be inserted into the lineup wherever he was needed.

That was a point of pride for Barclay when he performed at WVU's pro day in March – he had gotten himself ready to show that he could play any position on an offensive line from left tackle to right and those in between. When Bulaga went down, o-line coach James Campen did not hesitate to let Barclay fill the spot and he hasn't looked back.

"To go out there was a little nerve racking, but at the same time, it's something I worked so hard for to get to," says Barclay. "Everyone wants to make it to the NFL, well, I accomplished that. But then you have to prove yourself and get to the next step, and I worked for that opportunity."

Now it is his – the chance to perform not only at the highest level of his sport, but also on the biggest stage in the playoffs.

"That means everything. I worked my butt off to get to this point," he says.

Barclay thinks back to his college days and recognizes what he learned from his time playing at West Virginia that has translated to the success he has now. A big part of what prepared him was the competition he faced as opposing defensive linemen heard their names called in the NFL draft and are now playing on Sundays, but he also credits a fellow Mountaineer, Seattle's Bruce Irvin, for helping him become the player he is.

"I think we helped each other out a lot," Barclay says. "He definitely helped me with his quickness and the first move he can put on. He helped me move my feet better and as I moved my feet better, it helped him get better at the same time."

If the two WVU alumni were to meet in the playoffs, it would be in the NFC Championship game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

After a controversial finish between Green Bay and Seattle back in week three essentially put an end to the replacement referees and gave the Seahawks a victory, Barclay says the potential matchup would be the perfect time to meet his old teammate.

"Obviously what happened to us there, it was kind of a joke," Barclay says. "We probably got screwed and I'm sure everyone on this team would like to get a rematch. But as far as going against Bruce, it'd be awesome because both of us would be representing WVU up there and I'm sure it would be a great battle between us."

Irvin came with the hype. Barclay did not. But on Saturday night, he will be representing his alma mater as a Mountaineer who fought through the adversity to stand on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and see his dream come true. 

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