Kenjon Barner is used to one major aspect of life as an NFL running back.
With teams continually relying on multiple running backs each week, the need is there for versatile backs that can fill many roles.
Barner has accomplished just that scoring touchdowns four different ways during his time at Oregon.
The 2012 All-American also spilt time in one of the nation’s most talented backfields while carrying a motto head coach Chip Kelly instilled into the Ducks.
‘Don’t count your reps, just make your reps count,’ Kelly told his team.
“You never count how many times you’re carrying the ball. But every time you touch that ball you make it count. That’s the mentality you need,” Barner said of his interpretation of Kelly’s message.
Kelly took over the reigns as Oregon head coach during Barner’s redshirt freshman season, and the running back benefited from the up-tempo style.
Excelling in Kelly’s spread offense took some time to believing in according to Barner.
He still has vivid memories of the first practice that Kelly ran back in 2009.
“He pushes you to a limit that you didn’t know you had,” Barner said of the now Philadelphia Eagle head coach.
“I was really used to the coach (Mike) Bellotti’s way – which was run a play, take a break; run another play, take a break. With coach Kelly it was, ‘I want it right now.’ You have your tongue hanging out of your mouth. You’re tired. You’re dry heaving. It was a rough day.”
The dog days of those practices are just now memories for Barner but that helped pave the way for a stellar final two seasons.
While splitting time with 49ers running back LaMichael James in 2011, Barner ran for 939 yards during his fourth year in the program and elected to return to Eugene for his final season of eligibility.
This past year, Barner had 299 touches for 2,023 yards of total offense including a 321-yard, five-touchdown effort against USC.
Barner can thank Kelly for the stamina that he will carry with him to the next level.
And now that Barner thinks about it, maybe that first practice was worth the pain.
“It was beautiful. It inspired us. It ended up being a masterpiece.”
Tags: Chip Kelly, Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James
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