The night before the announcement came that CSU would play in the New Mexico bowl, linebacker Shaquil Barrett was having trouble sleeping.
It wasn’t because he was worried that his team wouldn’t be invited to a bowl game, but because one of his kids was sick.
For Barrett, who has two children under the age of two with wife Jordanna, staying up all night with his sick child is likely more important to him than receiving awards. For his teammates, though, hearing that their star linebacker was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday is something pretty special and deserving.
“It’s awesome, I’m very proud of Shaq,” tight end Crockett Gillmore said. “He’s been a playmaker since he got here, since day one. He’s intercepting passes, he’s sacking the quarterback, he can cover and you’re just like ‘please leave us alone,’ but he just doesn’t go away. And then to see him outside (of practice), with family around and everything else it’s wonderful. He’s just a great guy and I’m really happy for him.”
The senior from Baltimore, Md. is just the second player from CSU to receive the honor since linebacker Rick Crowell was recognized in 2000, the same season that former head coach Sonny Lubick shared Mountain West coach of the year honors with UNLV’s John Robinson. Crowell was drafted in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins in the 2001 NFL draft.
Barrett, who transferred to CSU after his former school — Nebraska-Omaha — shut down its football program, hopes the things he’s done at CSU will one day land him a job playing on Sundays in the future.
“I did the best that I was able to do,” Barrett said. “Hopefully that was enough to plead my case to get to the next level.”
Barrett set a Mountain West Conference record with 20.5 tackles for loss this season, ranking him fourth nationally. He also led the conference with 12 sacks, including 1.5 sacks on Heisman finalist AJ McCarron in Tuscaloosa — good enough to rank him third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
In his final season in a Rams uniform, Barrett blocked three field goals, two of which came in the home opener against Cal Poly, and helped lead the Rams to their best regular season record in a decade and their first bowl invite since 2008.
In the Rams’ win over UTEP, Barrett recorded his best statistical game of the season with 13 tackles (six solo) and three sacks. He also received MW Defensive Player of the week following the game and was voted National Defensive Player of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
For teammates like defensive back Shaq Bell, Barrett may not be the most vocal leader but he doesn’t have to be.
“Shaq’s just one of those people who leads by example,” Bell said. “He’s a playmaker and not a role player. Guys get the chance to see him make plays every game and he does. His impact is just incredible to the team.”
The stats and awards speak for themselves, which is something Barrett prefers.
“My father always told me to be humble and if you’re good you don’t have to brag about yourself, other people will do it for you so I just pretty much lived by that motto for pretty much most of my life,” Barrett said.
Something, undoubtedly, he will teach to his two sons.
Nine Rams receive all-conference honors
Barrett joins four other Rams on the Mountain West all-conference first team including Gillmore, senior center Weston Richburg, junior kicker Jared Roberts and sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs.
Senior defensive back Shaq Bell and junior offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo both earned second-team recognition, while junior tight end Kivon Cartwright along with junior linebacker Max Morgan received honorable mention.
The Rams will face the Washington State Cougars in the Gildan New Mexico bowl on Dec. 21 at noon.
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at email@example.com.