Once Garth Barclay stepped onto the Syracuse University campus, he knew he found the place he would call home for the four years after high school.
After he performed well at a camp held by the school, the York Suburban High rising senior lineman received an offer from Syracuse, and less than two weeks later decided to commit to the university on Wednesday.
Barclay said that after spending some time with the coaching staff, he realized they created an atmosphere he wanted to be a part of.
“The family vibe they give off,” Barclay said of why he chose Syracuse. “I am going to be spending a lot of time with the coaches and everybody there, so it’s important to feel welcome and loved wherever you’re committing.”
Football family: The 6-foot-7-inch Barclay is familiar with football families. His father, Pete, played football at Princeton, while his brother, Gavin, is an offensive lineman at Lafayette. His mother, Kate, was on the rowing team at Princeton as well.
Barclay said that the end of the recruiting process was as much of a relief for his parents as it was for him. After taking unofficial visits to multiple schools, including Baylor, Rutgers, Virginia and Syracuse, Barclay was ready to make his decision.
Also, Barclay said that the schools he was interested in were going to start to conclude their recruiting cycles at the end of June and he wanted to make sure he had a spot at the school he felt was a perfect fit for him.
A surreal moment: Less than 24 hours after he announced his verbal commitment to Syracuse, the meaning of accepting an offer from an Atlantic Coast Conference team that finished last season at 10-3 and ranked No. 15 in the nation hadn’t hit Barclay yet.
“I still don’t think the reality has set in yet, but it’s crazy to think about that,” Barclay said. “I never really thought that would be a thing that I did. I just worked hard, and it came with working hard.”
That work ethic is one of the reasons Barclay is ranked as the No. 20 recruit in Pennsylvania by 247Sports and received offers from multiple universities. It also didn't hurt that he's gained nearly 70 pounds and grown four inches since his freshman year.
Barclay spends a lot of time in the gym to build on his large frame with his trainer, Ali Johnson, and will continue to do so at Syracuse. He said that his favorite part of his visit to Syracuse — besides the scholarship offer— was the weight room.
He said with a laugh that he would be spending a lot of time in the gym and that it was a beautiful facility. Barclay added that he would likely redshirt his first year at Syracuse, but that will depend on how his body develops through next summer.
Suburban coach Andy Loucks said that the college coaches he talked to about Barclay all liked how he projects to get bigger and stronger. Loucks said Barclay's current weight is 250 pounds.
“That’s what you look for,” Loucks said. “It’s a lot easier for them to develop him physically the way they want him to look, as opposed to trying to trim a kid down 30 to 40 pounds because he’s carrying too much weight.”
Something to prove: Despite his height and ability to get stronger as he develops, Barclay was rated a three-star recruit by both ESPN and 247Sports.
During his meeting with Syracuse coach Dino Babers, the Syracuse coach pointed to a wall in his office that featured all the NFL players he coached and showed him all the guys that were ranked as two-or-three-star recruits that made it to the league.
He then asked Barclay if he knew his current star rating and when Barclay had to look up his rating, Babers explained why he brought up the topic of ratings in the first place.
“(Babers) said, ‘You know why I asked? Because it doesn’t matter,” Barclay said. “’It doesn’t matter what ranking you have, it matters what you’re willing to do to get to where you want to be.’”
One last season: While Barclay has found the place he wants to be for the four or five years after high school, he plans to play one final season of football and lacrosse for the Trojans. While football is his future, Barclay said lacrosse will always have a place in his heart as the first sport he played.
Now that he has made his decision on where he will attend college, Barclay is focused on his senior football season at Suburban before he signs his letter of intent. He said the Trojans, who were 4-6 in 2018, are very talented this season and he is excited for the campaign.
He knows that as the highest-rated player in the area, bound for a Power Five program, he will get the best shot of every defensive end that lines up against him, but he’s excited for the challenge.
“I think there is a little motivation for people to come after me now,” Barclay said. “But I am not sure how successful they will be.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.