Football Just One of Barber's Challenges

Peyton Barber's tests as a college athlete for the Auburn Tigers include a lot more than just running the football.

Auburn, Ala.--Last season Peyton Barber's high school classmate, defensive end Carl Lawson, proved he could get the job done on SEC football fields as a true freshman.

This season Barber is looking to do the same thing as a redshirt freshman running back for the Auburn Tigers. Based on his performance so far in spring training the redshirt freshman could have a chance to make that happen.

Currently part of a three-player competition with seniors Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne to take over the starting running back role held last season by Tre Mason, Barber will be looking to have a strong performance on Saturday in Auburn's annual A-Day spring game.

"I am just really looking forward to proving myself," he said after Tuesday's practice, noting he wants to live up to the expectations his teammates and coaches have for him.

Last season, prior to the Tigers playing FSU in the BCS Championship Game, Barber received high praise for the job he was doing as a scout team player. Mason, the 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, noted that the freshman might eventually prove to be the best running back on the team.

"It's a blessing having Tre say that about me," Barber said. "I guess the reason he said that is I try to do my best every day in practice improve and really show people what I can do."

Barber noted that one of his goals for A-Day is "just really establishing myself, showing people I can really play up to the hype everybody is talking about."

While Lawson was putting up impressive numbers on defense as a high school senior, Barber was doing the same thing on offense. Bouncing back from an injury that limited him as a junior, Barber rushed for 1,980 yards at Milton High School in Alpharetta, Ga., while finishing with more than 2,200 yards of total offense that season.

Originally committed to Ole Miss, when Auburn changed coaching staffs and Gus Malzahn took over in December of 2012 the new Auburn head coach make a big push to convince Barber to join Lawson at Auburn and it worked.

"That is my best friend," Barber said of Lawson. "We were next door neighbors in high school and we didn't really (talk) recruiting coming out of high school, but he was that guy I could talk to about everything on all of my official visits. He was really one the deciding factors in me coming to Auburn just because I wanted to have somebody that I was close to, that I could talk to."

In addition to the normal challenges a college freshman faces, Barber must deal with others. "I think my biggest thing is learning the plays," he said.

"I have a learning disability a lot of people really don't know about," the running back revealed. "I'm dyslexic and I'm also ADHD."

He notes he found out about his dyslexia while in class. "I was reading and the words would come off the page and then I would start reading backward. I was wondering what was going on and I had always had that problem so I went and talked to one of the counselors about it and they said, ‘We'll get you tested.' Then I went and got tested for it and that was pretty much it."

Barber said he was glad to find out what was happening. "My dad also has it, too, so it wasn't really much of a surprise, but it was definitely a relief to figure out what it was," he said."

He noted that it takes him longer than other players to learn football plays because of his dyslexia. Asking how he overcomes that, he said, "Pretty much just staying in my playbook and coming in when I've got extra time and working with Coach (Bobby) Bentley. Pretty much just staying in my playbook."

Barber has had a productive spring running the football.

The running back said Malzahn and Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee knew about his learning issue during the recruiting process. "That was one of the first things we talked about," Barber said. "I actually told the coaches when I came here on my official. Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee said we can work past that. That was one of my biggest things coming into it."

Now with spring training coming to an end with Saturday's A-Day Game the final practice, the running back said he believes he has made progress. "It's been a learning experience, but it's definitely going pretty good."

Asked if he feels like he has a chance to take over for Mason as the starter the redshirt freshman said, "I feel pretty good--I'm just staying in my playbook and getting plays down."

Barber and his teammates will be on display Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff time for the annual A-Day Game is 2 p.m. CDT and it will be televised on ESPN.

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