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Rookie Diary: Michael Barrett used 10 seconds to light a fire entering the NFL


CHARLOTTE— The Carolina Panthers seven man rookie draft class has experienced a whirlwind over the past two months. Since NFL draft weekend, rookies have moved to Charlotte, gone through rookie minicamp, and started organized team activities (OTAs). Mandatory minicamp is wrapping up this week and training camp will arrive quickly in July.

As the rookie draft class works through their first offseason, each will take time to reflect on their journey to this point and their time in the league thus far. Three rookies will take us along through the end of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, while the rest will take us along through training camp.

Next up is linebacker Michael Barrett. The Michigan alum and South Georgia native was drafted by the Panthers in the seventh round (No. 250 overall).

"Draft night was hectic. I was out in Georgia with my family, kind of surrounded by some family friends. Just nerve wracking waiting on that call, waiting to see where my next home would be. So just a mix of emotions; being excited and happy, sad, angry, all in one to be honest.

"Honestly, I thought I would get drafted earlier. With the draft process, you never really know, so I kind of just kept an open mind about everything, of how things would play out. I kind of was angry first…I've had the thought of that day so many times and it didn't play out how I thought it would. But then after getting that call and being surrounded by my family and being able to enjoy that with them, they've seen how much I worked for it and just having them there with me in that moment, it was exciting for sure."

"But it was motivational in that moment. Honestly, I've always kind of been an underdog. The one that's been overlooked. I've always had to work my way back, using my emotions. (There's) motivation to, not really get back at, but prove everybody wrong. I've heard all the negatives about me or why I didn't get drafted higher or why this and that. They asked me if I had a chip on my shoulder from it and I feel like I have a whole bag.

"It's kind of just been my normal throughout high school, throughout college. I've always had to make a name for myself and work my way from the bottom. That feeling of feeling like I wasn't enough or I'm not good enough to have been drafted higher, just feeling unwanted, that just lit a fire. So, all the thoughts were just running through my head and being able to focus that into positive energy, it was hard in the moment, but I gave myself 10 seconds of getting all my emotions out.

"I give myself 10 seconds whenever I feel like I need to get some emotions out—screams, yells, whatever I need to do—give myself 10 seconds and then use it to really lock in, focus it into a positive way."

They asked me if I had a chip on my shoulder from it and I feel like I have a whole bag.

The rookies first took part in a weekend rookie minicamp. When veterans returned though, the inside linebacker room was filled out with impact players, like longtime Panther, Shaq Thompsonand newly acquired free agent Josey Jewell. Those two, among others, get a lot of praise from Barrett for the welcome they've extended to the rookies.

"Hearing about the vets (when I was) coming into the NFL, you hear about how the vets are, you can get different kind of vets and I feel like we're like blessed to have the vets that we have. They're great guys, smart, they've been in the system around the league a lot. They know a lot and they're willing to teach us, willing to do whatever to make us better, to kind of better the program, better the room.

"Being there after rookie minicamp, having the whole team there, really seeing all the guys that you're going to be out there with, it was nice, finally being able to get that full team. Because when it was just the rookies, I don't know, it felt a little weird, just being here with a whole bunch of guys that didn't know what was going on. So having the older guys to be able to look up to and see what's going on, it makes you more comfortable, it makes it more real.

"You hear about a lot of the vets who really don't care for rookies like that or really don't want to help all the younger guys. But I feel like any one of the guys in this building, I feel like would be good enough to answer any question you have. I'll ask a defensive back or I'll ask one of the D-lineman something and they'll have it ready for me."

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While at Michigan, Barrett was apart of teams that went 51-11 in his five years, and won the National Championship for the 2023 season. Despite the immense success and undefeated season, complete with trophy, there was still a learning curve in the NFL, Barrett admitted.

"I feel like where I came from at Michigan, we did a lot of things similar to the NFL. But I feel like just actually finally getting out there, getting those first couple of reps and…everybody just is flying around knowing exactly what's going on. I just kind of felt behind trying to fit in. That's kind of how I felt. But, just trying to do anything, try not to have a big arrow over your head like, 'oh, this guy is new here. This is a rookie right here.' So trying to stay low, trying to stay in the back and learn as much as I can from the older guys."

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Former Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was hired shortly after the college season ended, to be the next head coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. He took a slew of coaches with him and even drafted the other half of Barrett's linebacker corps, Junior Coulson. The Panthers will welcome the Chargers in Week 2 of the upcoming 2024 season. It's a game Barrett is already looking forward to.

"It's going to be exciting to look over on the sideline and see them on the opposite side. I know they'll talk trash. But excited to see all my old coaches, old teammates.

"(Harbaugh) called me after I was drafted. He called me up, he just told me how proud he was of me, and he wished he could have got me as a free agent. And then just told me good luck with everything.

"All of the guys, man that's Michigan 2.0 now. They pretty much, they got, I want to say like (seven) Michigan guys over there. Plus (former Michigan linebacker) Junior Coulson (drafted in the third round). I actually I text (some of) them and I was like, I'm going to make you all pay for (passing me over), I'm going to make you pay for it."

View photos of Michigan linebacker, Michael Barrett, drafted by Carolina in the seventh round of the 2024 draft.

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