Saturday's much-anticipated showdown between Big Ten defending co-champions Ohio State and Penn State could very well come down to a high-pressure field goal attempt.
And if it does, Buckeye placekicker Devin Barclay, despite the fact he may be making his first career start in one of the season's most important games, is more than ready.
After all, Barclay has been kicking under pressure for years—the only difference is that he's accustomed to booting soccer balls, not footballs.
Barclay, a 26-year-old former walk-on, joined the Ohio State football program after wrapping up a Major League Soccer career that included stints with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the San Jose Earthquakes, DC United, and most recently, the Columbus Crew.
While he is still getting accustomed to his new sport, Barclay was pressed into duty Saturday against New Mexico State when starting kicker Aaron Pettrey suffered a season-ending knee injury.
After scoring his first career points in the 45-0 win, Barclay credited his soccer experience for preparing him to face the challenges of big-time college football.
"I've obviously been in another sport playing professionally at a competitive level for almost 10 years now," Barclay said. "That definitely helped me get ready.
"I'm kind of used to a pressure situation, and getting thrown into games, you learn to adapt and deal with the situation a little better having that background."
Barclay, who tallied six points (three extra points and a 29-yard field goal) against the Aggies, is a quick learner on the football field—he was completely new to the sport when he enrolled at Ohio State.
"Finishing my soccer career in Columbus, I decided to go to school here...at that time, I thought I'd try to kick field goals," Barclay recounted. "I got a lot of tutelage from Dan Stultz, who used to kick here [Stultz played for the Buckeyes from 1997-2000]. He pretty much taught me the swing and the motion.
"I got positive feedback, I really got comfortable working with him, and got comfortable with the idea of it. The rest is history. I worked with Dan for six months, sent in a tape, and that was pretty much it!"
Barclay said that the main differences between his old sport and his new one are the training ("I had to put on a little bit of weight and get myself into football-playing shape") and the actual kicking motion (trying to get the ball up in the air instead of keeping it down).
He's also getting used to slightly bigger crowds than he saw in the MLS days.
"It was exciting," Barclay confessed after kicking in front of over 100,000 people Saturday afternoon. "I didn't really need that many kicks to get myself ready to go. My adrenaline was pumping. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience—the roar of the crowd...
"I can't really describe it except that I went from spectator to participant," the junior explained. "It's an amazing feeling. We work very hard to come out there on Saturdays and to play for the fans, so when you get an opportunity to do it, you want to keep in mind all the things that got you to that point."
Maybe "once-in-a-lifetime experience" wasn't quite the right description, because Barclay's focus now is on the upcoming trip to Happy Valley, where the fans won't be quite as warm and welcoming as the Columbus faithful were on Halloween. Will the famed Whiteout take its toll on the new kicker's confidence?
"The stakes are a little bit higher, obviously," said Barclay of the looming road trip to Penn State. "They're our rivals in the Big Ten. I've just got to get myself ready for next week: it's one of the biggest games of the season."
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!