A dominant lineman from Durango High School will have a new team and a new home after Ryan Barkley, clad in blue and gold, signed a National Letter of Intent to play football for the Montana State University Bobcats during a National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday at DHS.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior had other options to keep his playing days going, but he chose the Bobcats over other programs for the school’s academic standing.
“One of the biggest things is it has what I want to study, and that was very important to me because I don’t want to get out of college and be like, ‘What do I want to do with my life,’” Barkley said. “I want to study what I want to study and get a good education.
“Another big thing is they only take two linemen, so instead of being one of 13, I’ll be one of two.”
Barkley was a first team all-conference selection in the Class 3A South Central League and a second team all-state selection in 2017.
Barkley plans to major in either agricultural business or farm and ranch management. In 2015, MSU’s College of Agriculture was named one of the top four agriculture programs in the nation.
MSU is a Division I FCS program in Bozeman, Montana, and the Bobcats compete in the Big Sky Conference.
The Bobcats finished the 2017 season 5-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky under first-year head coach Jeff Choate.
“(Ryan is) a young man that comes to us from Durango, Colorado, and is a great piece of clay. He’s 6-4, around 270 lbs, and I feel like he’s a guy who really fits Montana State,” Choate said in a news release. “He’s the right fit academically and I think he’ll come in and provide depth on the offensive line. I’m very excited about Ryan and I’m glad he’s part of this program.”
Barkley has made a couple of trips to Bozeman to visit the campus and the team as part of his recruitment, including a trip this past weekend to meet several members of the coaching staff and players.
“I was up there this weekend and got to meet the team and meet the coaches, and they’re all great people,” Barkley said. “Coach T (Joshua Taufalele), he’s the offensive line coach, he made me feel at home. He said, ‘I don’t call them my players, I call them my kids.’ I really like that because you have to have a good, strong connection with your coach, otherwise you’re probably not going to like it.
“Also, coach Choate, the head coach, is a great guy. When I went to talk to him, he wanted to talk about me; he wanted to get to know me. He didn’t want to talk football and we had a nice conversation.”
Barkley said the similarities between Bozeman and Durango will help for a smoother transition to living away from home. Bozeman is in southwestern Montana, about an hour and a half north of Yellowstone National Park and tucked between several mountain ranges and ski resorts. The town is home to about 45,000 people, with close to 100,000 within its metro area.
“It’s like a small town, but it’s not,” Barkley said of Bozeman. “It’s got a Main Street just like Durango’s. ... It feels like a small town. And there’s Bridger Bowl, which is just like (Purgatory Resort) for us, and there’s Big Sky. ... There’s tons of stuff to do.”
Barkley and the Bobcats will open the 2018 season against Western Illinois on Aug. 30 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman.