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Dyslexia is ‘an ability,’ not a disability for Bucs’ Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

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TAMPA, Fla. — The words in Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber’s playbook are sometimes jumbled, and they don’t make sense, so he has to read them over and over. He has to draw the plays up, too, and then he has to walk through them to fully understand.

“Some people can get things with classroom only, but he’s certainly gotta be in it, see it and let it happen,” said Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer, who has worked with Barber the past two seasons.

Barber has dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population. It results in difficulty with word recognition, spelling, reading comprehension, language and visual processing.

“I do read a lot slower, and there will be times when I’m reading something and I’ll read it backwards or the words will come off the page,” said Barber, 23. “[But] I don’t really see it as a challenge, to be honest.”

Barber also has attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition characterized by difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Neither has held him back on the football field, even when he must learn hundreds of plays and identify where the pressure is coming from in a matter of seconds. In fact, despite starting only four games last season, Barber finished with a team-high 423 rushing yards, 114 receiving yards and three touchdowns, becoming a candidate for the starting role in 2018.

“I think he will be right there,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said at the end of the season. “I think that will definitely be a consideration. Peyton did a good job with his opportunities this year.”

‘I learned a lot slower’

Growing up in Alpharetta, Georgia, Barber was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten and took mostly remedial courses until his junior year of high school.

“I learned a lot slower. I struggled a little bit in high school. [My grades] weren’t terrible, but I mean, I’d say I was kind of all over the place: C’s, B’s, occasionally an A in college,” said Barber, whose father also has dyslexia and ADHD.

He wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until his freshman year at Auburn. There, Barber had tutors, received extra time on tests and took his exams in a different room with a proctor, all of which are allowed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

Barber tried the medication Vyvanse for about a week and a half, but he didn’t like the way it made him feel, so he stopped taking it.

He also got help from then-offensive analyst Bobby Bentley, now the running backs coach at South Carolina. Bentley understood that the traditional classroom setting and long meetings didn’t always cater to people like Barber, a kinesthetic learner, who needs movement to learn.

“A good athlete has to be someone who does well under pressure, who actually has clarity under pressure and can respond and react almost impulsively. … On the field, being impulsive is good because it means you’re acting quick and fast.”

Dr. Roberto Olivardia

“I was the same way. I have ADHD,” Bentley said. “Nobody really knows this, but we would meet in the indoor facility and walk through plays from hash to hash. … He became very knowledgeable about what to do based on our step-throughs and our walk-throughs. … What was great about Peyton is that he absorbed it all. He was a sponge. I was able to pour myself into him because he wanted it.”

After Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson left the 2015 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic against Louisville with injuries, Barber stepped in to rush for 116 yards, becoming the starter.

“It’s been like that pretty much wherever I’ve gone. Like, I’ve always been that guy that was sort of overlooked in a way,” said Barber, who credits Bentley with teaching him patience. “Just remembering your process and everything — what you’ve been through in the past, knowing that the cream always rises to the top.”

Barber rushed for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns that year. He also excelled in the classroom, earning SEC Academic Honor Roll for three years.

He entered the NFL, a decision he made so he could assist his mother, Lori, who lives off disability and at the time was staying in a cramped apartment with her daughter and grandchildren. He bought her a townhome this past year, and his dream is to buy her a house.

Thriving on urgency

Barber has developed some of his own coping mechanisms. He chews gum when studying because he feels the chewing motion helps him lock in. He keeps multiple packs in his locker.

He also fidgets with his goatee, which can stimulate the frontal lobe of the brain to improve concentration, and he takes breaks to give his mind a rest.

When Spencer gives quizzes, he gives Barber additional time, if needed. Barber always sits in the front of the room and is called on frequently.

“I just really direct everything to him, and he’s OK with that because he wants to learn. And there’s nobody in there making him feel like he doesn’t know or making him feel like he’s any less than anybody else,” said Spencer, who is an advocate of multisensory ways of teaching.

“The coaching staff really helps me. They’ll always ask me, ‘Do you completely understand?’ If I don’t, I’ll tell them straight up, ‘I don’t,'” Barber said.

Said Spencer: “He can definitely run the football, and he’s a lot better than when he first got here with protections and being able to see the field and not just looking at the line of scrimmage. He needs to be able to see down the field and analyze things before they actually happen so he can play a lot faster. That’s what I’m trying to get him to see.

“Also, because he has ADHD and dyslexia, it’s imperative for him to focus when he comes out on the practice field. He can’t be messing around with the guys and joking and all that other stuff. He has to focus so he can be on point.”

Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the treatment of ADHD and learning disabilities, believes Barber’s makeup can actually be advantageous in sports. Dr. Olivardia mentioned other athletes who have ADHD, dyslexia or both, including Greg Louganis, Michael Phelps and Magic Johnson, as did the late Muhammad Ali.

“There’s something in the ADHD brain that thrives on urgency,” Olivardia said. “A good athlete has to be someone who does well under pressure, who actually has clarity under pressure and can respond and react almost impulsively. … On the field, being impulsive is good because it means you’re acting quick and fast.”

Barber has never met anyone in the NFL with dyslexia, but some of the sport’s biggest personalities — Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Mark Schlereth and Frank Gore — have been diagnosed with it.

“When you’ve had to work at succeeding in a way that might have come easy for other people, by virtue of having ADHD or dyslexia, there is a certain perseverance and a certain toughness that comes along with that,” Olivardia said. “There’s a certain sense of power in, ‘Maybe I did it in an unconventional way, but I was able to figure it out and do it.'”

Olivardia said that some of the most highly successful entrepreneurs have dyslexia because they think outside the box and are avid problem solvers. That’s exactly what Barber wants to do. The past two offseasons, he has returned to Auburn to work toward finishing his degree in interdisciplinary studies.

“I kind of want to do a little bit of everything,” said Barber, who believes that the patience he learned through coping with dyslexia and ADHD has helped him excel in all areas of his life.

“I don’t see it as a disability — I see it as an ability. I see it as something special and unique in many ways. Yeah, I may learn differently, but at the same time, I’m thriving.”

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Who is Trey Lance? Meet the NFL draft darling playing only once this fall

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Carlton Lance remembers only two of his son’s passes that could have been intercepted during North Dakota State‘s 16-0 season in 2019.

There was an out route in a 27-16 victory against UC Davis when a cornerback cut under the Bison receiver and nearly picked off the pass.

And there was a throw down the middle in a 22-0 shutout of Missouri State when Lance’s son didn’t see the backside linebacker, who dropped the ball after it hit him in the hands.

Otherwise, much like the Bison’s third straight national title-winning campaign (and eighth in nine years!), Trey Lance‘s first season as North Dakota State’s starting quarterback was pretty much perfect.

Remarkably, Lance didn’t throw an interception in 287 attempts, setting the NCAA all-division record for most passing attempts in a season without one. He completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns, while running 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 more scores. He led the FCS in passing efficiency (180.6) and established single-season school records for passing efficiency and total offense (3,886 yards).

He was named the most outstanding player in North Dakota State’s 28-20 victory against James Madison in the FCS national championship, which helped the Bison achieve the first 16-0 season in college football since 1894. He won the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS and the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman, becoming the first player to win both honors.

Lance and the Bison will take the field on Saturday for the first and only time this fall against Central Arkansas at the Fargodome (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+ and ESPN app), which typically seats 18,700. Only 8,400 fans are expected after many season-ticket holders opted out because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It also could be most fans’ last chance to see the player they might have read about but never seen in action.

Lance, a draft-eligible sophomore, is projected as the third-best quarterback available for the 2021 NFL draft, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Both analysts project Lance among the top 10 picks overall.

Lance says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll enter the NFL draft or return to North Dakota State for another season. The Bison are scheduled to play eight more games from late February through mid-April. The draft is scheduled for April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland.

“We’ve talked about it,” Lance recently told ESPN. “My family has been up here to talk about it. Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’m just 100 percent focused on this game. I’ve had conversations with the coaching staff and my family, and I’m gathering information and getting as much feedback and advice as I can get.”

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Lance has the size, arm strength, mobility and decision-making that NFL teams covet. The only thing he lacks is greater experience at the collegiate level. After redshirting in 2018 and playing behind current Los Angeles Chargers backup Easton Stick, Lance would have only 17 career starts if he elects to leave before the Bison resume their season in February.

“It’s all about what other people think,” Lance said. “It’s not really about what I think. I’ve done everything I can to play as many games as possible. If that was my decision at the end of the fall, I’ve played as many games as I possibly can. I’m loving it here at North Dakota State, so we’ll see what happens.”

Former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz faced similar questions after he missed much of his senior season because of a broken wrist in 2015. Wentz went 20-3 as a starter before he was the No. 2 pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL draft, the highest selection of an FCS player in the draft’s history.

Stick, a fifth-round pick by the Chargers in 2019, is the winningest quarterback in FCS history with a 49-3 record.

“I think it all depends on the individual,” Bison coach Matt Entz said. “When Carson Wentz was going through the same process, people were concerned about whether [23 starts] was enough. I think it depends on the organization and what they’re looking for. I know the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Quarterbacks are going to be drafted in the first round, regardless if they’re top-15 talent or not, because everybody needs to have one and everyone wants to have a game-changer at that position, just like we do.”

Lance wouldn’t be the first quarterback selected in the first round with limited starting experience in college. Since the 2006 NFL draft, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, six quarterbacks have been taken in the first round with fewer than 20 college starts: Mitchell Trubisky (13), Cam Newton (14), Dwayne Haskins (14), Mark Sanchez (16), Kyler Murray (17) and Ryan Tannehill (19).

“That’s not our decision at all, so it doesn’t matter what I think,” Carlton Lance said of his son’s decision to enter the draft. “It is what is. It’s what he has. That’s one thing you’ll find out about Trey and the Lance family, period: We don’t work in what-ifs or should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. If he moves forward, he moves forward. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. There’s no use in us being worried about that decision. We have no control of it.”

As they did with Wentz, Power 5 programs largely ignored Trey Lance coming out of high school. (Stick’s lone Power 5 offer was from Rutgers.) Teams from Group of 5 leagues such as Air Force, Boise State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan offered Lance an opportunity to play quarterback. Power 5 coaches, however, only liked him as a receiver or defensive back, despite Lance throwing for 3,026 yards, running for nearly 1,200 yards and scoring 51 total touchdowns during his career playing in a wing-T offense at Marshall High School in Minnesota.

Lance attended summer camps at Minnesota and Nebraska, but offers to play quarterback never came.

“Boise State was the biggest offer he had,” his father said, adding that Lance rarely played quarterback in the second half of games because the scores were so out of hand.

“I tell everybody: Being from Marshall, they really didn’t believe what they were seeing, probably,” the elder Lance added. “He checked a lot of the boxes: He had the height, he could run the ball, he could throw the ball rolling out right or left. He was accurate. I’m just stating the facts.

“What I dislike hearing is that he bloomed late or something like that. He was 6-3 and 200-something pounds when he left high school. He could play. I’d like to see which box he didn’t check.”

Getting college recruiters to come to Marshall was a challenge in itself. The town of about 15,000 residents is 150 miles west of Minneapolis. Lance’s father grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, and was a football and track star at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall from 1988 to 1991.

Ed Meierkort, later the head coach at South Dakota, recruited Carlton Lance for the SMSU Mustangs. When Meierkort first contacted him, a hurricane was headed for South Florida. Meierkort asked him how long hurricane season lasted.

“About 30 days,” Lance said. “How long does winter last up there?”

“About 30 days,” Meierkort replied.

Lance also was under the impression that Marshall wasn’t too far from the Twin Cities. When he arrived for preseason camp as a freshman, two SMSU players picked him up at the airport. They took him to a Twins game and then drove him to Marshall that night.

Lance fell asleep in the back seat of his teammate’s car, checked into his apartment late that night and finally saw the town the next morning. He was surprised to find a cornfield across the street from the team’s practice field. It wasn’t quite Minneapolis.

As a junior cornerback in 1990, Lance helped lead Southwest Minnesota State to its only conference championship. The team also qualified for the NAIA national playoffs for just the second time in school history.

Lance played one season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was named to the Canadian Football League’s all-rookie team in 1993. He also played for the London Monarchs of the World League in 1995 and was in training camp with the NFL’s Houston Oilers and San Francisco 49ers.

After he retired, Lance and his wife, Angie, whom he met in college, returned to her hometown of Marshall. Lance put a football in his son’s hand shortly after he was born. He has been a volunteer coach at Marshall High, where Trey’s younger brother, Bryce, is a senior wide receiver. The Bison are among the teams that have offered Bryce a scholarship.

Randy Hedberg, the Bison’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, loved Trey Lance’s competitive nature and the physical way he played quarterback.

“He’s very athletic and has size,” Hedberg said. “He plays the game and quarterback position with a defensive mentality. His dad was a defensive coach and coached the secondary, and Trey played in the secondary in high school. I think that’s the way he plays. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play that way at the next level, but he plays a very physical type of game.”

Carlton Lance said he encouraged his son to lower his shoulder or get out of bounds but never to be on the wrong end of a big hit.

“If it’s him and a guy, you’ve got to make a business decision,” he said. “You better make sure that he feels you, rather than you feeling him if you pull up. I always tell him that there wouldn’t have been a Tom Brady if Drew Bledsoe didn’t pull up by the sideline.”

What sold Trey Lance on the Bison were the program’s quarterback tradition and its offense. While other teams are running up-tempo offenses with no huddle and signaling plays from the sideline, the Bison still huddle and call plays in the huddle. North Dakota State’s quarterbacks are tasked with setting protections and making run-and-pass checks at the line of scrimmage.

During game weeks, Lance studies hours of tape in preparation. On Mondays, he reviews the opponents’ overall schemes; Tuesdays are for third down; Wednesdays for red zone; and Thursdays for two-minute offense. On Fridays, after cutting film the previous day, Lance presents the game plan to his receivers, telling them where they need to be in particular concepts.

“He studies the game very hard,” Hedberg said. “I’d say he’s a football junkie.”

In Lance’s first game at North Dakota State in 2018, he scored on a 44-yard run against North Alabama. In his second game against South Dakota, he fumbled, kicked the ball twice and still scooped it up and scored on a 23-yard run.

In his first start against Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis last season, he completed 10 of 11 passes for 185 yards with four touchdowns and ran for 116 yards with two scores.

“He doesn’t get flat and he doesn’t get rattled,” Entz said. “This young man is different.”

Lance met Fields at the Elite 11 QB camp in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this past spring, and he has only communicated with Lawrence on social media. While they might be separated by a level of NCAA competition and hundreds of miles, Lance is confident there isn’t much different about them when it comes to playing quarterback.

“They’re both faith-driven guys and great guys,” Lance said. “I don’t know if there’s any other schools, maybe Oklahoma, that’s doing what we’re doing at the quarterback position. The last three quarterbacks before me have all had legitimate NFL looks, and the last two have been drafted.

“Realistically, if you’re in the transfer portal or being recruited out of high school, if you’re really thinking about your future and where you want to be, I think bigger isn’t always better and the grass isn’t always greener. If your goal is to play at the next level, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to come to North Dakota State.”

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NFL issues strong warning to coaches who won’t wear masks on sideline

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The NFL has issued another strong warning to coaches who won’t wear masks on the sideline during games, threatening suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks as punishment for failing to comply with COVID-19 game-day protocols, according to a league memo obtained Wednesday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The strongly worded memo, sent to coaches, general managers and team executives by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, includes a passage in which the NFL says it will “address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may include … suspensions and/or forfeiture of draft picks.”

It marks the second time this month that the NFL has warned coaches to comply with coronavirus-related protocols by wearing a mask on the sideline.

The league has already fined four head coaches this season — Las Vegas‘ Jon Gruden, New Orleans‘ Sean Payton, Denver‘s Vic Fangio and the Rams‘ Sean McVay — for not wearing masks on the sideline during games.

“Both our own and independent medical advisors have emphasized the need to remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by agreement with the NFLPA as well as by state and local governments,” Vincent wrote in the memo.

“We are only through Week 3 of the season. If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols … will put the 2020 season at risk.”

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Kansas City Chiefs rookie CB L’Jarius Sneed breaks collarbone

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed broke his collarbone in Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, a source said.

Sneed, a fourth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech, has been a pleasant surprise for the Chiefs. He started the first three games and is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with two.

His rapid development has been an important factor in the Chiefs’ 3-0 start.

One starting cornerback, Bashaud Breeland, is serving a four-game NFL suspension. The other, Charvarius Ward, fractured his hand in the Week 1 game and did not play in Week 2.

Ward replaced Sneed after the injury against the Ravens and played with his hand heavily wrapped.

The nature of Sneed’s injury was first reported by the Kansas City Star.

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