Senior linebacker Anthony Barr roaring for Bruins
Senior Anthony Barr is turning heads with his enormous talent. The 6-4, 250-pound San Pedro native became one of the top-performing outside linebackers in the nation during the 2012 season when he started all 14 games and was named an Associated Press Second-Team All-American and a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection by the league’s coaches. Barr’s extensive football background and his grounded values help him to pave his own way on and off the football field. Keeping his body fit and his mind sharper, Barr views every day as a new challenge and sees the upcoming season as a chance to step up and lead the team.
Q: Where did your football roots start? How was your interest sparked?
Anthony Barr: I started off playing basketball. That was the very first sport I played. I was always a point guard; I loved being all over the court. But it was my mom that suggested I play football. I started playing flag football in the second grade and then moved on to Pop Warner during the third grade and continued from there. She was the one who really got me into it. She had told me how successful my father was playing football and that I should give it a try. I was uneasy at first but once I got into it, I fell in love with the sport.
Q: So how do you feel following in your father’s footsteps?
AB: It’s different, very different. We each have our own pasts; he grew up in Oklahoma and played for Notre Dame. He had a lot of success and was drafted by the Eagles and played in Philadelphia for a couple years before his injury. But I am just trying to do my own thing and be my own person. I’m trying to carve out my own path and I think I’m doing pretty well for myself so far.
Q: The big thing everyone is talking about is how quickly you adapted to this new position. Tell us your experience and how you view this change.
AB: It has been a big change. I had primarily played running back and offense all the way through high school and my first couple years at UCLA. I had always thought that was what I wanted to do. I had to completely change my mindset, change my focus and my attitude once Coach Mora and his staff came in. I knew that they were going to a 3-4 defense and I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit in an outside linebacker position. But I just went out and gave it a shot and I didn’t really know what to expect or what they wanted me to do, or how it really worked. I just took baby steps and worked with the position coach every week, going through the playbook and trying to understand my role. It was a long process at first that started in December (2011) and lasted until spring ball. Then I got injured and I had to take a step back. Since I wasn’t able to practice on the field physically, I practiced off the field mentally with all my mental reps. Fall camp came around and I became healthy again. Being out for so long allowed me to work on the mental aspect again and really nail down my opposition and assignments. When I was healthy enough to play, I was able to do it at full speed. That led to the (2012) season and I ran with it.
Q: There are such stereotypes about football health. Tell us a little bit about your routine and how the program views training.
AB: We have a great strength and conditioning trainer. We work on our bodies and our minds first. We also have a nutrition plan, a lot of greens, carbs, and lean proteins. We have access to cold tubs, trainers, and the works so you just have to be very professional about it. I get in there early and get my body right, take a hot shower if I need to wake myself up and make sure I feel right before I go out on the field because every day is an interview. You have to come to college to get a job and that is what I’m doing. I’m still working to try and get a job. My body is my tool and I need to keep it as healthy as possible in order to succeed.
Q: How do you feel about the season?
AB: I’m really excited. I think we have a really good shot at being successful this year and I think at this point in the year we’re a lot further along than last year at this point. Last year, we only had a couple defenses in that we really knew to a tee and this year we have a pretty good grasp of all the defenses. That is very exciting and I am just trying to step into more of a leadership role. We have a lot of young players, 20 and younger, and we just try to teach them and just be positive. We know that they are going to make mistakes and that is just part of the territory of growing up. I’m trying to do anything to ease the learning curve and make them more comfortable and just bring them along with us.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about UCLA so far?
AB: I can’t complain about anything. There are clear skies, trees, beautiful people, and great food. I spend way too much time in Westwood choosing different things to eat. The community and the relationships I have built on and off the team has been my favorite. Everyone is very positive and works very hard. We all have one common goal and that is to be successful. It’s a competition every day on the field and in the classroom, and that’s what makes this such a great university. You are not going to achieve greatness if you are not constantly competing against the best.
Q: You said every day is an interview. What do you plan to interview for in life? Where do you see yourself after your time at UCLA?
AB: Football is my main focus and job right now but I love food! I would love to be a chef or go to culinary school. Once I’m done playing, I could see myself opening up a non-profit restaurant. I am fortunate enough to have an able body and I would love to give back any way I can.
Q: Seeing as you love food, is there a favorite dish of yours or something you are famous for making?
AB: The problem is I don’t cook yet; I’m just really good at eating! I am fortunate to have a roommate that cooks a lot. My favorite food would be Mexican but I also love Italian. I don’t discriminate; if it tastes good, I’m going to eat it.