Robert Nachtman chuckled a little as he told the story.
A couple years ago, the offensive tackle was on the scout team and was assigned to block a linebacker. On one particular play, Nachtman — who now stands 6-foot-3 and 305-pounds — attempted to block Ian Barr, who is all of 5-8 and 165 pounds.
One might think it was a mismatch, an easy job for the hulking lineman.
“I went up and he put me on my back,” said Nachtman, who has since become good friends and a weight room workout partner with Barr. He may not have appreciated it at that practice years ago, but he knows very well now there is a lot of strength packed into that undersized — by linebacker standards — body.
“Once he gets on the field, once he tackles you, there’s no underestimating him,” Nachtman added.
There is a lot of punch packed in Barr’s body, a combination of strength and intelligence to make him a challenge for any opponent — even undefeated District 7 champion Pine-Richland, which will be the Little Lions’ opponent at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hempfield Area High School in Greensburg in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals.
If any opponent thinks Barr can be handled merely by looking at him, he does so at his own peril.
“Here’s a kid that believes he can do anything,” coach Matt Lintal said. “He will be relentless. The effort he plays with, the desire, the passion he has to be a team player is unbelievable. He plays a lot bigger than he is, and he’s done it for years.”
The numbers don’t lie in this case. He’s among the team leaders in a variety of defensive categories: tackles (64), solo stops (46), sacks (4), fumble recoveries (5) and passes defended (4).
And he wouldn’t have those stats without a work ethic and passion inherited from his parents, who own T&B Medical, a small medical supply and equipment company in State College. The perspective of a small-business owner has shaped the way Barr sees the world.
“You have to work for everything you have,” he said. “Nothing’s going to be handed to you in life.”
That view of life was then combined with Barr’s other sport — wrestling — in which he was competing for three years before his first organized football game. Last season, Barr was the 160-pound runner-up in District 6 and finished third at the Northwest Regional before posting a 1-2 record at the PIAA meet.
He has taken the knowledge and confidence from his success on the mat and is using it on the field.
“It’s learning how to maneuver your body and how to use your strengths to overcome what you have, considering my size,” said Barr, who squats over 400 pounds and said he frequently holds his own against bigger foes. “I use my body to my advantage.”
Barr’s abilities caught the eye of Lintal well before this season, throwing the linebacker on the field as a sophomore in the season opener that year at Spring-Ford.
Barr is relishing the chance to tangle with undefeated Pine-Richland, and in some ways the Little Lions are the small linebacker taking on the hulking beast that is the Rams team. The Little Lions might have a chance if they can all play like Barr.
“Size shouldn’t be a determining factor to how I play each play,” he said. “You kind of have to be a grinder if you can’t be blessed with the huge frame. You have to make the small plays that matter.”