Sweating under the spotlight, with swaths of hair plastered across his forehead, Brian Barthelmes stands like a lineman bracing for an oncoming rush. Strumming his Fender Telecaster to the crescendo of the song, he commands attention. When the Tallahassee frontman's 6-foot-6 frame is on the stage, you can't help but think, "Jeez, I bet that guy played football."
Barthelmes washed through the rank-and-file NFL experience, entering the churning mill of bodies that shuttle into training camps this time of year only to be jettisoned into the free-agent abyss by Labor Day. The University of Virginia product was lucky in some regard, catching on with the Patriots practice squad in several stints during the 2006 season. He played in the now-defunct NFL Europe and had another cup of coffee with the Patriots at training camp in '07.
His name doesn't appear on the Patriots all-time roster. He never played a single down in a regular-season game. His was as most NFL careers are -- fleeting.
From early on, even in his high school days at Kenston High School in Bainbridge, Ohio, where he played football under his father, Lee, Barthelmes never felt like a football player. He was a standout basketball player, but in Ohio, linemen are linemen and he didn't have much say in the matter. Football was his ticket to a Division I scholarship, and he considered it foolish to turn that down.
By the time he was let go by the Patriots for the final time during training camp in August 2007, Barthelmes' mind was all but made up -- he was leaving the game for good.
All it took to crystallize the truth were some terse, poignant words delivered by Bill Belichick.
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