It may have been the red turf beneath his feet, the familiarity of the receivers tracking down his 40-yard missiles or the family members who stood along the sideline wearing custom-printed “EB3” T-shirts.
No matter, the most important tryout of Eric Barriere’s athletic career felt like anything but as the Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback and six of his Eastern Washington teammates went through pro day drills in front of a small number of NFL scouts Wednesday afternoon in Cheney.
Barriere won the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy in 2021, was the runner-up for the same award the year prior and has plastered his name throughout the Eastern Washington and Big Sky Conference record books. But all that success and production didn’t yield an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, and Barriere was passed up for each of the three primary collegiate all-star games – as well as the second-tier games – that give players a prime platform to showcase their skills in front of NFL suitors.
Therefore, Wednesday’s audition was crucial for the four-year EWU starter and Southern California native who also participated in throwing drills at USC’s pro day – attended by all 32 NFL teams – on March 23.
But Barriere played loose and looked relaxed on a bluebird day at Roos Field, where he conducted a series of scripted throwing drills and performed other speed and agility drills after testing out his vertical jump inside EWU’s weight room.
“It’s no pressure at all,” Barriere said. “I feel like this is a moment you want to be here for, so all the training and stuff I did leading up to it and really had no pressure once I came today.
“It’s just putting on a show, that’s all.”
In other words, something Barriere did time and time again throughout an EWU career that saw him amass 15,394 yards of total offense, 13,809 passing yards and 121 passing touchdown – all program and Big Sky records. He’s also the school record-holder in completions (1,007), attempts (1,623), rushing yards by a quarterback (1,585), touchdowns responsible for (143) and points responsible for (882).
Although he’s demonstrated he can carve up FBS defenses, Barriere still has to grapple with the reality of being an FCS quarterback – and the stigma that normally comes with that. At 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, he’s on the smaller side when it comes to signal-callers in the 2022 draft class. Even after a largely successful pro day – Barriere said he performed well at USC, too – teams may still have questions about his unorthodox throwing motion.
“It’s just another chip on my shoulder, that’s kind of how it’s been,” he said. “Since high school, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder so it’s on to the next level and the chip just keeps getting bigger.”
Barriere unleashed a few deep throws to former EWU receivers and fellow pro day participants Andrew Boston and Talolo Limu-Jones. He displayed his ability to throw on the run, hitting targets in the chest on short, intermediate and longer patterns, and he ripped off an impressive 70-yard throw while standing flat-footed.
“We’ve seen Eric from the time he got on campus in the fall of 2016. You’re going to get a competitor, a guy who can make every single throw and then some,” EWU coach Aaron Best said. “A guy that’s a consummate teammate, a guy that leads in multiple ways. A guy that’s going to be the example. A guy that plays the position better than many have played it, and we’ve had a lot of guys here that have played that position really, really well.
“I’m not going to order them, but Eric Barriere is certainly in that elite company that have played well. He’s the best player in America at our level. There’s something to be said about that – that doesn’t just happen overnight.”
Aside from the throwing portion, the most impressive aspect of Barriere’s pro day may have been his vertical jump, which was officially measured at 38 inches. For reference, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder registered the best vertical among QBs at the Scouting Combine, jumping 36 inches. Barriere said he was targeting a 40-yard dash between 4.6 and 4.7, but landed on the lower end of that range with a 4.77 on his second attempt.
“I wanted to stay 4.6, 4.7 because at the end of the day 40 and game speed is two different things,” Barriere said.
The two-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year will have a fallback option in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers if he’s unable to land a job at the sport’s highest level, but Barriere believes he can bring something valuable to an NFL roster if given the opportunity.
“They’re going to get a person that’s ready to work, come in and want to help the guys, help the team and be a good teammate and ultimately I just want to learn,” he said. “So I’m not trying to go in and start or anything like that. I want to learn as much as I can and then when my time comes and I know I’m ready, then I can handle my business.”
The five NFL teams reported to be in attendance on Wednesday included the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. Along with Barriere, Boston and Limu-Jones, EWU participants included running backs Dennis Merritt and Tamarick Pierce, offensive lineman Tristen Taylor and former defensive back Tamir Hill. Western Illinois defensive back Terin Adams, the son of former Spokane Shock owner Sam Adams, also took part in Wednesday’s event.
A second-team All-American who started and played a school record 60 games in Cheney, Taylor cranked out an impressive number on the bench press, lifting the 225-pound load a total of 31 times – one fewer than the best number by any player at the combine.
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