Alex Barbir walks from the South Forsyth High School athletic parking lots to the center of the football field with a bag in hand, headphones on his head and neon green shoes that prompt onlookers to lower their sunglasses over their eyes.
He wears a skin-tight performance tank with the digits “369” across the chest. His 5-foot-10, 195 pound frame is almost all muscle.
Running back? Safety? Cornerback? Outside linebacker?
Barbir then begins sprints from one sideline to the other. He goes through a gauntlet of stretches. He then unzips his bag, and out comes a hand full of footballs—and a kicking tee.
And Barbir begins to kick.
Just like in life itself, there are stereotypes in football, and Barbir made the point at the beginning of his high school playing career that he would tear those stereotypes down. Kickers sometimes are seen as kickers: they spend half of practice playing rocks, paper, scissors’; maybe they play a game of H-O-R-S-E. Hyperbole aside, nobody thinks of kicking as a conventional football position that requires intense amounts of dedication, training, weight lifting, cardio and dieting.
Kickers are just kickers. Barbir is a football player that kicks really well.
“When I first started playing football I wasn’t just a kicker,” Barbir, a rising senior for the War Eagles who just returned from a camp at Rutgers University, said. “I used to play linebacker, running back, safety. In the 10th grade and 11th I began to play more cornerback, but my Dad steered me away from that because he didn’t want me to get hurt.”
Barbir could do it all, but kicking was where he belonged. It’s where he knew his future was. Now it’s his full-time focus and passion, and he’s tearing down the kicker stereotype while doing it.
“Kicking requires a lot of extra work to be great,” Barbir said. “For instance, we do all of our regular warmups as a team with the stretching in pregame—you do all of those small things. Well, 10 minutes later after our warmups I’m doing my own stretches and my own warmups, getting my muscle memory down pat going into a game.”
There is one stereotype Barbir does meet—he comes from a soccer background.
“My entire life, since I was four years old, I’ve played soccer,” he said. “It kind of runs in the family.”
He’s not lying. His cousin, Danny Barbir, plays in the English Premier League for West Bromwich Albion F.C., as well as the United States Men’s National Team’s feeder system.
His cousins moved to Pennsylvania, a soccer hotbed, at a young age. Alex stayed behind and played club soccer growing up, but eventually decided to change his direction after the quality of the play on his team began to sink.
“It left me in a situation to keep playing, or try something new, so I picked up football,” Barbir said.
Barbir picked up football in his ninth grade year, and gave up soccer shortly after because the muscle memory was so different. He could only focus on one if he wanted to be great.
“Honestly, kicking a football and soccer ball are totally different,” he said. “I quit soccer because the technique you use for both are totally different. In order to be a great kicker you have to have great muscle memory.”
Barbir has spent the last month running from one recruiting camp to another. He attended camps at Georgia, Clemson, Georgia State, Penn State, UNC and eventually Rutgers, where he received an offer, and will head to Texas this week.
Barbir is ranked as the No. 2 kicker in the nation by 247Sports.com, and also holds offers from the service academies in Army, Navy and Air Force. He’s been recruited by 18 Division I schools, and will likely receive more attention as his senior year progresses.
He plans on using that time to continue to get better.
“I honestly think there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “Nobody is perfect, period, but I think I’m going into senior year with a lot of confidence.
“I’ve hit a 56-yarder in a game, but can hit from 67 in practice. I’m not sure if coach would let me kick from 67 in a game, but if he ever needs me, 61, 62, or 63 would be realistic.”
Barbir also said he runs a 4.8 40-yards dash, has a 31-inch vertical and plans on “getting much faster” so special teams coaches can plan to use him for trick plays.
He’s not just a kicker. He’s a football player that prefers to kick.