It is a tale often told but nonetheless compelling for having been heard so often.  Tavaris Barnes has overcome a lot to potentially make an NFL team.  At 23, Barnes has lost a brother and a son.  The Clemson defensive end plowed through tragedy with hard work and the support of his family–especially his charismatic and strong Army veteran mother.  He counts among his other admirers, his sister, his  grandfather and his two daughters.  His great desire to play and earn a degree will stand in good stead for his daughters, even if the desire was tempered by being away from them.

“I haven’t seen my kids in a month,” said Barnes.  “I had to go back up to school and finish up because I graduate next week. I love being a dad and I love being around my daughters. [There] ain’t nothing like it, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Growing up in an area where drugs and violence run rampant is never easy, but Barnes claims that he refused to identify with his surroundings.

“My mom really had me sheltered, I almost got lost out here but she kept me straight,” said Barnes. “She kept me wanting to do better for myself.”

“I learned not to let where you’re from make who you are [and not to be] a product of your environment,” said Barnes.

“Growing up, I always heard I was a product of my environment but I’m not. I didn’t let [my neighborhood] make me who I was or who I was going to be. I’ve always wanted better for myself and to come back to places like this, help these people and show them that someone from this type of area can be a big influence and can make it.”

The only thing holding Barnes back was Barnes.

“So many people have been talking to me through my career, saying ‘it’s time to go.’ I had to talk to the man in the mirror, man,” Barnes said … “The man in the mirror was holding me back. There ain’t no holding me back anymore. The world is mine.”

When Barnes’ “Man in the Mirror” comment was told to Dabo Swinney, the charismatic head coach grinned and busted a dance move.

“He’s just gotten focused. He got serious about it,” Swinney said. “He knows he’s got the ability; I think he’s just finally figured that out and he’s trying to do everything he can to maximize this year. I’m pulling for him.”

 New Orleans Saints Undrafted Rookie Tavaris Barnes

Defensive endTavaris Barnes is6foot,4inches and is comparable toJarius Winn of the Buffalo Bills, but will he make the New Orleans Saints roster?

Barnes was projected as a 6th or 7th round draft choice or a priority undrafted rookie.Barnes has a nice athleticism and energy for the position.  He has good quickness off the ball due to his footwork. He uses this initial step to his advantage by exploding into blockers with his arms extended.  Will pursue to the backside of the line of scrimmage and has good use of twists and stunts.  He had not achieved the status of full time starter at Clemson and only saw the field 30% of the time.  He needs time to develop his skill set especially his hand usage.  He is still learning the game and needs to hone his instincts.  He holds incredible potential if coaching and time are afforded to him to develop. And if he does not hold himself back.

Barnes was part of the nation’s top defense playing alongside Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Corey Crawford, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams.

The three best games of Barnes’ career were in 2014 — in consecutive weeks against Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest.

“The Wake Forest game was the first time I had the other team’s head coach come up to me and say, ‘That’s how you play football,’” Barnes said of Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson. “I had a lot of instrumental plays in that game. I was all around the ball, moving and making plays.”

His excellent play against Boston College and Syracuse earned him start against Wake Forest.  In the three-game stretch, he had four tackles (two for a loss), three sacks and a forced fumble.  The stretch likely secured him a Combine invite in spite of the fact he had just four career-starts.

“I was loose and ready to compete,” Barnes said. “I was comfortable.”