Barry's Foundation For The NFL
Started With The Blue Dragons
While a great many of Kevin Barry’s headlines at Hutchinson Community College were written because of his prowess on the football field, Berry will go down in Blue Dragon lore as one of the most successful two-sport athletes in college history.
Not only was the Racine, Wisconsin, native a first-team NJCAA All-American for the Blue Dragon football team, Berry also won two NJCAA national championships in the shot put for the HCC track and field team.
That resume alone made him a member of the 2016 HCC Quarterback Club Hall of Fame induction class. Beyond Hutchinson, Berry had an outstanding career at the University of Arizona and then a six-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans.
“We were looking for a junior college because I had to go that route and Wisconsin doesn’t have any,” Barry said. “So we were figuring out where to go and I found Hutch, checked it out and liked it and went there.”
Standing 6-foot-4 and over 300 pounds with the Blue Dragons, Barry blocked for a pair of all-conference running backs in Arland Bruce (1997) and Jamison Palmer (1998), not to mention a quarterback named Shaun Hill (a 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee).
Barry earned first-team NJCAA and second-team JC Gridwire All-America status as a member of one of the best offensive lines in Blue Dragon history after the 1998 season. That line had a great deal to do with Palmer breaking Hutchinson’s single-season rushing record (1,576 yards). Palmer was named the Jayhawk Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was also a first-team All-American.
“The 1998 offensive line was a great group of guys, Barry said. “We really worked well together. It was a big deal to offensive line for Jamison to get that record. There is nothing like when a running back breaks through to that next level and gets more yards. That means we are getting our job done.”
But Barry’s story with the Blue Dragons wasn’t complete after football season.
A Wisconsin state high school shot put champion, Barry wanted to continue to compete in track and field at the collegiate level. Blue Dragon track and field coach Patrick Becher brought Barry on board and Barry produced.
Barry won the 1998 NJCAA outdoor national shot put championships with a heave of 54 feet, 10 inches. He doubled up in 1999 with a national championship throw of 55 feet, 1 inch (the third best shot put in Blue Dragon history at the time of his induction).
Barry learned early on the secret to the success of his chosen disciplines.
“They both come down to technique,” Barry said. “You can take an offensive lineman or a guy who throws the shot put and they can bench a house. But if they don’t use the proper technique, they will get beat by somebody smaller.”
After graduating from Hutchinson in 1999, Barry was a two-year starter for the Arizona Wildcats. As the 2002 NFL Draft rolled around, Barry had an indication that he might be taken in the fifth round, but his name was never called.
Some 10 different teams contacted the Blue Dragon standout about signing as an undrafted free agent. One of those teams was his home-state Green Bay Packers.
“I was like ‘the Packers are calling me,’ ” Barry recalled. “I was talking with (head coach) Mike Sherman and he waited on the line to see what I was going to do. I had other teams calling and I thought about things and this was the Packers. I was going home to Green Bay.”
Despite growing up in Racine, the first time Barry had ever seen famed Lambeau Field was when he flew into Green Bay after signing with the Packers.
Barry stayed with the Packers for five seasons and played in 59 games starting eight.
While with Green Bay, Barry blocked 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. He was also part of a unique offensive formation called the “U-71 Formation” named for Barry’s uniform number.
“Performing on special teams, field goal, extra point and I set the wedge on kickoff return,” Barry said of playing in the NFL for six seasons. “I had a formation named after me. That kind of stuff keeps you in The League.”
Barry signed with the Houston Texans before the 2007 season, but never played because of injuries.
Barry called his two years at Hutchinson his “foundation.”
“It helped me to understand how to run different offenses and working with a different group of guys.” Barry said. “You have to be able to adapt and work with whoever is there. That carried on from Hutch to Arizona and into The League. It’s a really big, quick turnover in the NFL and you have to be able to work as a unit right away.
“The two years at Hutch was a big foundation of learning offenses with different guys.”