SV grad Barclay parlayed focus on football into NFL career
This is the last in a series of articles profiling the 2022 Butler County Sports Hall of Fame inductees.
CRANBERRY TWP — His first love was baseball. His final choice was football.
It proved to be the right choice for Seneca Valley graduate Don Barclay, who wound up playing in 73 games during a six-year NFL career as an offensive lineman. He will be inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame during the organization’s annual banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Lyndora American Legion hall.
“That’s going to be an exciting night,” Barclay said. “There are some impressive names on that list (of county Hall of Famers). One that stands out for me is Tyrell Sales of Butler. I remember playing against him in basketball.”
Barclay was a three-sport athlete at Seneca Valley, playing baseball, basketball and football. He did not play football until seventh grade. He was a forward in basketball, a third baseman in baseball.
“Baseball was the sport I played the longest,” Barclay said. “It was my favorite sport. I couldn’t play midget football in Cranberry because I was always over the weight limit.
“I was always a big kid. Once I started playing football, I realized it fit my body type. And Coach (Ron) Butschle got in my ear and convinced me that I had the ability and if I put in the time and effort, I could play at the next level.”
A four-year letterman in football at Seneca Valley, Barclay started on the Raiders’ offensive line as a sophomore. It was after that season he decided to give up baseball and basketball so he could concentrate solely on football.
But that decision wasn’t easy.
“It was so hard, especially quitting baseball,” Barclay admitted. “But I was convinced my collegiate future was in football and I had to devote time to the weight room and getting physically stronger. I totally committed to football.
“I had a big junior year and started to get some college interest.”
That interest came from Pitt, West Virginia, North Carolina State and various Big East and Mid-American Conference schools.
For Barclay, choosing West Virginia was a no-brainer.
“WVU football was electric at the time,” he said. “(Quarterback) Pat White, (running back) Steve Slaton, they had a big-time offense and were a top-10 program,. I visited a WVU practice and a Pitt practice. The difference was obvious.
“I had a blast there. I played on some great teams, went to bowl games, met my wife Brea there. It all worked.”
After being an all-state lineman in high school, Barclay played in a record 52 games for the Mountaineers, starting in 40 of them. He helped anchor an offensive line that led to a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma and Orange Bowl win over Clemson. He was first team All-Big East his senior season.
Barclay also earned the Weight Room Warrior Award, Ideal Mountain Man Award and was a three-time All-East Academic team member at WVU. He was projected by NFL scouts to be a possible late-round draft choice.
After going undrafted, Barclay signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers.
“I wasn’t shocked when I wasn’t drafted,” he said. “My agent told me Green Bay was known for giving non-drafted free agents a fair chance, so I signed with them. I was one of three non-drafted rookies who made their 53-man roster that year.”
He wound up starting on the right side of the line early in his career, but tore his ACL in his third season. From there, he was primarily used in a reserve role.
But he stuck around the league for six years. Another injury cura=tailed a season with the Detroit Lions after only one game. Barclay played in two NFL championship games and three other playoff games with the Packers.
“I was released in training camp by the Saints one year, released during camp with the Broncos the following year before I finally gave it up,” Barclay said. “I fought for playing time my entire career, every game, every practice. I’m proud of my career.”
Barclay and his wife, Brea — who he met when she was an athletic trrainer at WVU — live in Cranberry Township and have three children — 8-year-old Cooper, 6-year-old Brynn and 3-year-old Bella. Cooper is playing football for the first time this fall. Brynn is involved in soccer and lacrosse.
“They are athletic and involved,” Barclay said. “My focus is on helping them along now.”
Tickets for the banquet are $30 in advance and are available at Parker Appliance in Chicora, Saxonburg Drug, the Butler Radio Network, Maddalon Jewelers in Zelienople and at www.bcshof.com. Tickets will be $35 at the door.