The rise of Owls’ punter Adam Barry

In two years, Temple University football’s Adam Barry has gone from the worst punter in the conference to one of the best punters in college football.

Adam Barry, a junior punter, watches the Owls' game from the sidelines at Temple's homecoming game against the University of Memphis at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 2. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Sept. 14, 2019, Temple University was locked into a tight game against No. 21 University of Maryland. 

With three minutes and 12 seconds left in the game, Temple was leading 20-15. Freshman punter Adam Barry took the snap from redshirt-freshman long snapper Ronald Gaines, stepping up and making contact with the ball. But Barry’s punt was sent straight out of bounds, sailing a total of seven yards, and setting up the Terrapins with terrific field position and the game on the line. 

Since then, Barry has grown from being that “lanky Kentucky-kid” who in 2019 ranked last in the conference in punting, to a stellar representation of what Temple is looking for in a punter. Not only has Barry’s maturity developed, but his punt placement and distance have improved also, he said. 

Miraculously, the Owls would go on to win the game 20-17, but the play landed on ESPN for the Sportscenter Not Top 10 Plays as a nationwide laughingstock, Barry said. 

Barry didn’t pay attention to the laughter from the crowd, though.  

“I didn’t care,” Barry said. “I didn’t go on social media. I just kept my head down and went right back to work.”

He focused on his craft and eventually got better — much better. 

Entering this 2021-2022 season Barry landed on the Ray Guy Award watch list, an award that goes to the best punter in college football. With more than129 FBS teams, the honor was a tribute to the dedication he applied to his personal improvement. 

Barry’s punting today is a far-cry from his freshman year, where he averaged 37.8 yards punt distance, while this year his punts are going an average of 45.3 yards.

The development came through honing his skill and receiving motivation from the players and staff around him, Barry said. 

Barry’s biggest motivator, though, is himself, he added. 

“Adam’s a guy that competes his tail off,” said Special Teams Coordinator Brett Diersen. “He’s extremely hard on himself. I think he’s self-motivated.”

The team’s belief in Barry has blossomed into full-fledged confidence with each and every punt, Diersen said. 

Barry was named one of the top-8 punters in the nation for week four after Temple’s rout against Wagner University on Sept. 25, averaging 49.8 yards-per-punt during the game off of 4 punts.

Barry began his collegiate football career at Independence Community College in Kansas, a junior college school he viewed as a stepping stone in his football career. 

“I didn’t have many offers coming out of high school except for walk-ons,” Barry said. “I was looking for a scholarship. I looked at it like another opportunity to open up recruiting.”

Independence Community College was spotlighted on season 3 of Netflix’s “Last Chance U” in 2018, a show that follows a lower-tiered team for an entire season. Barry and his teammates received some attention from the show, but Barry’s opportunities came from scouting and attending training camps, where the Owls noticed him. 

Barry received a call from an assistant coach at Independence Community College, detailing for him the prospect of playing for Temple, who had shown interest, Barry said. 

Barry discovered if he could beat out Temple’s punter, redshirt-freshman Connor Bowler, he would win the starting job and a full scholarship, Barry said. 

Upon arriving at Temple, he immediately earned a spot as a starter, and Bowler transferred to the University of Charlotte. Barry’s freshman year was a reality check, after punting the ball 25 yards and fumbling on another punt attempt against the University of Buffalo on Sept. 21, 2019.

His poor performance freshman year led Barry to readjust his form and increase the time he spent weight lifting and watching film. 

With the help of teammates and coaches, Barry steadily improved on his ball placement and mentality throughout the course of the season, he said. 

Everybody who knows Barry knew the kind of punter he was going to be, it was just a matter of when it would show in its entirety, Gaines said. 

“He most definitely grew into who he’s supposed to be and is still growing,” Gaines added. 

Fans can watch Barry dance after a successful punt, cheer on his teammates and wander the sideline hyping every player up. But once he steps on the field, he’s locked in, Barry said.

Barry practiced repeatedly to get where he’s at today, advancing his flexibility and enhancing his IQ through hard work. And the results have shown through the three basic mechanics: catch, drop and kick. 

The same exact mechanics that nearly cost Temple a key win two years ago are the reason he is looking to continue playing football beyond college, he said.

A missed punt is just another bump in the road for Barry, but those mistakes have made him the player he is today. 

“On the field, off the field, wherever I’m at, I got to be the best,” Barry said.

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