Jared Barber first suffered weakness and general fatigue during the early stages of his senior football campaign at Davie County High School, but those symptoms didn't prove to be a precursor to any serious health issues. After weathering that scare, Barber returned to the field and played very well, only to suffer a partial cartilage tear in his knee. That injury might have ended the high school careers of some players, but Barber was determined not to let that happen.
"It was not a full tear, and it could have healed by itself, but I decided to go ahead and have surgery," said Barber, explaining that his decision was the quickest way back on the field. "Two weeks later, I was back out and playing, and since that time, it has been great. I haven't had swelling or anything like that. I'm at 100%, and the knee has just been awesome."
Since the completion of his football season, Barber has been working out – much of the time in the company of a powerlifter and trainer whom he credits for helping him both in the gym and in life.
"I'm working out with Travis Mash, who was pound for pound the world's strongest man at one time. He played fullback at Appalachian State, and he's a powerlifter who has worked out at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and won a lot of competitions. He is a great guy, and he's really been a positive person in my life."
"I took a week off after my season ended, then I got right back into my workout routine. I got a workout book from Coach [Mike] Joseph, and Travis has been helping me work through it. It's a lot more complex than my high school workouts, and it has me focused on speed and conditioning, but there are more Olympic lifts in there too. I've already gained about eight pounds of muscle, but my 40 time is lower, too. When I get to West Virginia, we are going to be top conditioned athletes, and I know that for me to play in Coach Casteel's defense I have to be in great shape."
Had Barber's high school graduation been in May, he likely already would have been in Morgantown, but since that didn't happen until last weekend, he will come in with the next group on June 26, and start classes and workouts the next day.
"I want to get there as soon as I possibly can," he said, displaying the eagerness and enthusiasm which also punctuates his play. Kyle Rose, the defensive tackle, will be my roommate, and we talk and text a couple of times a week. He is a great guy and I am really looking forward to that. He is a big wrestler who won a state title this year, and I used to wrestle, so we talk about that, and football, and what to bring. He's bringing the XBox and I'm bringing the TV, so we have that covered."
It figures, though, that the game console might not get a big workout. Barber is very excited to begin his college career, and it won't be a surprise if he develops into a weight room warrior. He is happy with his progress to date, and anticipates even more improvement as he gets into Joseph's routine on campus.
"I feel pretty confident with the improvements I've made," he said. "I haven't taken a day off since I got back."
Barber hasn't paid a great deal of attention to the current coaching situation at West Virginia, and said that it is not an issue with him.
"To be honest, I haven't heard too much about the coaching stuff," said Barber, who has been paying more attention to his workout routine than anything. "I called Brian Athey to get some info about it, but it's just not that important to us. I trust the coaches, and I have 100% confidence in them."