Barry Church leads Rockets on and off the fieldWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
T safety Barry Church. Church and his Rocket teammates were coming off a 58-26 blowout homecoming loss to Western Michigan, one that saw the Rocket defense give up 20 unanswered points in the first five minutes of the Oct. 10 game at the Glass Bowl.
“Giving up that many points in that game was embarrassing,” Church said. “I thought we came out flat that night, but that is no excuse. I just knew we could play better than what we showed against Western Michigan.”
Church, still reeling from the loss, did something coaches dream for their senior leaders to do. The three time All-MAC selection took the responsibility on his shoulders, and vowed to make sure a performance, like the one against Western Michigan, would not happen again on his watch.
“We were just not playing to our potential and it was our job to change that,” Church said. “I just could not let that keep happening to us on defense. I told them that there would be no MAC championship or bowl game this season if we continued playing the way we were.”
Church turned from prognosticator to prophet during the Oct. 17 game against the Northern Illinois Huskies. After it was determined that senior quarterback Aaron Opelt, who was still recovering from a bruised right throwing shoulder, would not play, Church knew he and his defense would need to step up.
Church racked up 12 tackles during the game and the senior safety blocked an extra point and the potential game winning field goal, to secure a 20-19 win over the Huskies. For his efforts, Church was named the MAC West special teams player of the week. He was also named the defensive back of the week by College Football Performance Awards.
“It felt great,” Church said of his performance against NIU. “We had a great week of preparation, and I felt like we really went out to play against Northern Illinois.”
Being a leader on the team has been a role Church relishes.
“I think this team looks up to me as a leader, especially the defense,” Church said. “But I just go out trying to help the coaches and our team every time we play.”
That leadership has not gone unnoticed by Rockets head football coach Tim Beckman.
“Barry is a great football player, but more importantly he is a great person,” Beckman said. “He does so many great things for us on the football field and I think people miss what a great person [he is]. He gives credit to his teammates and it is never about him. That is exactly what Barry Church is all about.”
When coach Beckman and his new staff set foot on campus this past winter, Church was asked to change his role a little on the team. Barry was moved from his safety position to a nickel back. The coaching staff wanted to utilize Church’s speed and size in their defensive schemes.
“Our nickel back needs to be able to blitz and get downfield quickly, but he also has to be able to play well in pass coverage as well,” Beckman said. “We felt Barry was perfect for that role on our team.”
Church, a Pittsburgh native, welcomed his new role with open arms.
“I believe that being able to play different positions and many special teams roles helps me and the coaching staff,” Church said. “Being able to play those positions helps the team and helps further my dreams of getting to the NFL. I would even punt if they wanted me to.”
With his career at UT nearing an end, Church is just savoring his time left with Rockets. He and his fellow senior classmates have only five games left and only two remaining games at the Glass Bowl.
“Being a part of this Toledo Rocket family for the past four years have been some of the best years of my life,” Church said. “I have no regrets about coming here. Playing for the Rockets has been one of the best decisions of my life.”
Church is not done turning heads yet. He knows the Rockets still have some unfinished business to tend to before it is time to hang up his midnight blue and gold helmet.
“We want to finish out this season as MAC champions and go to a bowl game,” he said. “I hope to keep playing the way I have been playing and continue to help this team for as long as I can.”
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