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Athletes of the Year

Male Athlete of the Year: T. Jay Barber was a state qualifier in both golf and wrestling and was first-team all league in football
by: Jeff Spiegel, Estacada High seniors T. Jay Barber and Stephanie Searls are the 2011-12 Estacada News Athletes of the Year.

Golf, wrestling and football aren't sports you typically see next to each other. There's the aggressive nature of wrestling and the peaceful nature of golf. The team component of football and the individuality of golf.

Despite their differences, however, there is one thing they do all have in common: Estacada senior T. Jay Barber.

After earning first-team all Tri-Valley League honors at the running back position in football, Barber advanced to the state meet in wrestling and then took second place at the state golf tournament. For all of these reasons, Barber has been named the Estacada News Male Athlete of the Year.

Barber's career in sports began around second grade, when he started playing soccer, wrestling and playing golf with his dad.

After a few years, Barber realized soccer wasn't for him, but he also realized that with all the time he and his dad had spent on the course, he had picked things up pretty quickly.

'Once I started beating my dad, I was really excited,' he said. 'It seemed like I was able to pick up pointers and tips easily and apply them to my game. So I started getting better and better.'

Come sixth grade, Barber tried football.

'Once I played football, I was able to let out my aggression,' he said.

As a bigger kid, he was right around the sport's weight limit for carrying the ball - 120 pounds. With all of his friends playing running back, Barber did everything he could to watch his wait so that he could stay below the limit.

'I started playing running back just because my friends played it, plus I always played running back in video games and running the ball just seemed cool - being able to score and having people focus on you,' he said. 'After my first couple games is when I realized I was one of the better players on the field.'

So in ninth grade, Barber was one of the running backs on the junior varsity team, but by the end of the season he got called up to varsity and was able to travel with them in the playoffs.

As a sophomore, an injury to one of the varsity backs meant Barber was called into action as the team's No. 2 back.

'That was the year that Jacob Layton developed and so I ended up being a blocker or a switch up if he didn't have gas to go,' he said.

With more injuries his junior year, Barber developed into the team's power running back, but by the end of the season he had improved his speed enough to develop into a serious threat.

By the time senior year rolled around, expectations were high for Barber and the Rangers football team.

Just like in years past, however, injuries decimated the team. After losing their first four quarterbacks to injury and a couple running backs to injury or transfer, the Rangers won just one game all season.

Despite all of the disappointment, Barber was a bona fide star.

Whenever the Rangers needed a big play, they put the ball in his hands and he rarely let them down. Whether it was a powerful stiff-arm, lowering his head and running someone over or simply beating someone to the edge, Barber was a force to be reckoned with.

'Individually it was nice to have that senior year, but I would trade it all to have all of the injured players back,' he said. 'I wanted the team to be recognized, but it just didn't work out like that.'

Barber finished the season with 205 carries for 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns. No other player carried the ball more than 57 times.

What is even more amazing about Barber's high school career was his durability in the midst of so many injuries. In four years of high school, Barber missed just one game.

'He was a pleasure to coach,' head coach Brigham Baker said. 'He was very consistent, always at practice and doing the right things.

'He was a guy you could lean on when things got tough and he took on that leadership role without much of a choice because he was the guy everyone would look to.

'We're going to miss him a lot, he's tough to replace as a two-way starter and a first-team all league running back. It's going to be a challenge.'

Despite the wear and tear that football put on his body every year, as soon as it was finished, Barber made the move into the wrestling room as a sophomore.

'Sophomore year was my time to get back into wrestling,' he said. 'I hadn't wrestled since third grade and my first year they needed me to fill the 189-pound varsity spot, so it was definitely a year to get back on my feet.'

By the time his junior year rolled around, Barber had begun to pick things back up and started to win some matches. By the end of his senior year, however, was when Barber begun to dominate.

After almost quitting wrestling to focus on golf, Barber decided that he didn't want to miss any opportunities to compete in his final high school year. By the end of the year, that decision was validated as Barber won the district title at 189-pounds and advanced to the state meet.

'It was a lot of fun coming back,' he said. 'We had injuries again as a team, but we still were able to have a lot of fun on trips and stuff.'

So after another three months of putting his body through a series of physically demanding tasks, Barber would finally retreat to the peaceful fairways of golf.

'Golf was my favorite sport growing up because that's what I had been doing the longest,' he said. 'I had been playing with my dad since I was six or seven, and it was a really good bonding experience for us.'

With his dad still by his side as a coach, Barber was immediately an impact player for the Rangers golf team. As the second or third best player as a freshman, Barber and the Rangers missed out on the state meet by just six strokes.

The trend of barely missing continued as a sophomore, when the Rangers had graduated nearly their entire roster and Barber was forced to focus on qualifying as an individual. This time, he came up two strokes short.

Finally as a junior, Barber got the break he needed. With the team still in rebuilding mode, Barber took second place at the district tournament and moved on to the state tournament, where he finished in ninth place.

With more experience under his belt, this past season looked to be the most promising. The team consisted of a number of quality golfers and looked poised to finish in the top two teams in the district. After dominating the competition all year long, however, grades and transfers once again left the team decimated, and they missed making state by three strokes.

After a terrible first round individually, Barber was able to rebound nicely on day two and move into fourth place in the district, at least earning himself a shot at state.

With the goal of finishing in the top five, Barber finished the first day in second place with a four-stroke lead over third place. After two triple bogeys on the first 11 holes of day two, Barber shot two-under on the final seven holes to hang on to second place.

'I wish my whole team was there,' he said. 'It was a bittersweet way to end the season.'

As Barber walked off the course having competed in his final high school event of the season, Barber gave his dad a big hug and savored the moment of what he had accomplished.

The moment was fitting - the respect he showed toward his family, who had supported him throughout the years.

'Off the field he's great,' Baker said. 'The way I see him treat his mother and talk about her is a reflection of how he was raised. Just the respect he has for people is unconditional.'

For Barber, the moment marked the end of a truly remarkable year of sports.

'I'm really happy with how I did individually,' he said. 'While the individual part is great, though, it would have been nice to have our teams do better.'

Next year Barber will attend Southwest Oregon Community College, where he has been accepted onto the golf team.