The tradition of special teams play, particularly the kicking game in football, has grown over the years at Hoggard High School and across Wilmington thanks to the Barth family. On Tuesday night, more than 65 kids were at Scott Braswell Stadium for a laid back but informative workout session alongside NFL veteran Connor Barth.
While Barth is headed to training camp later this month to compete for a spot on the New Orleans Saints’ roster for the 2016-17 season, the evening was for the kids and giving back – free of charge – to the community that has supported him from his days in a Hoggard uniform to his latest opportunity to remain in the National Football League.
“This has really been a good thing that we’re doing each summer and wouldn’t be possible without the work of my dad, Tom Barth, who really does the work in setting this up each year,” said Barth.
Tom Barth was instrumental in developing his two sons, Connor and Casey, during their time at Hoggard under longtime Coach Scott Braswell. Since then, the Vikings have continued the institution set up by the Barths, which was evident in the volunteers who helped out during Tuesday’s camp. Former players and college-level athletes, including Connor’s younger brother Casey, manned the camp.
Braswell made some brief comments before warmups got underway as he gets set for his first school year in two decades with no coaching or administration responsibilities after stepping away as Hoggard’s Athletics Director earlier this year.
Even though the Barth’s attention was solely focused on the youngsters for the duration of the practice, it was hard not to talk about what lies ahead for the place kicker, who lives on Wrightsville Beach most of the year and works out with local trainer Hudson Rose. Rose has trained over 60 Division I student-athletes, along with several professional athletes. He has been impressed with Barth’s development on many levels during their time together and looks forward to watching him compete for a chance to stay in the league.
“Connor has worked so hard to get to where he’s at, especially from a weight room standpoint,” Rose said. “He wasn’t really known as a gym guy when he was younger, but today he is as athletic as ever and I really think he hasn’t been given his due because of the non-football related injury from a couple of years back.”
After signing a four-year, $13.2 million dollar deal with Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, Barth missed the following season due to a freak injury while playing in a charity basketball game in Wilmington. Despite being one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history with an 84.8 conversion rate, Barth has bounced around the league since the setback. In the wild world of the National Football League, there have been many thoughts as to why Barth hasn’t found a permanent landing spot over the last few years, but he’s been thankful for the chance ahead and looks to make a good run at the place kicking job under Saints’ Head Coach Sean Peyton.
Peyton has had a chance to watch Barth first-hand competing twice a year during his multiple stints with the Buccaneers as NFC South Division rivals. Mix in the fact Barth has never missed a field goal inside the Superdome in New Orleans, the Hoggard alum should be set up to call the bayou his home for at least next season.
Even if it doesn’t work out, getting the call midway through the year like he has in Denver and most recently Tampa, again, Barth is still a quality leg who likely will be on many a general manager’s speed dial in the months ahead.