Fort Drum football prodigy heads to Cowboys Stadium
October 27, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Rather fittingly, Cedarious Barfield was born on the day in February known for heart and passion. On the football field, he hits opponents with the packed punch of an NFL cornerback and spins off tacklers with the kind of grace that marks this 11-year-old's life.
During games, whether playing tailback, quarterback, linebacker or safety, all eyes are on No. 6. But off the field, the Fort Drum superstar smiles sheepishly when acknowledging those standout skills, diverting attention toward his good grades, or religious beliefs.
Yet those talents are natural and undeniable. Even homespun videos displaying that flair have thousands of hits on YouTube.
Last summer, his father enrolled him in the highly competitive Offense-Defense football camp, which includes close mentoring by collegiate and ex-pro coaches. As a result, Cedarious was selected last December to play in the Offense-Defense Youth All-American Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Coaches even picked him for the "Gatorade Award."
"It means I played with a lot of heart," Cedarious said.
Heart, plus skill, led him to more than 1,000 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns last season with the Fort Drum Mountaineers peewee team.
This year, after winning the MVP award for running backs in his age group at the same summer football camp, Cedarious was selected to represent the East again during the Offense-Defense Youth All-American Bowl Week from Dec. 26 to 31.
This time, he will travel to Arlington, Texas, where he will suit up and play in the recently built Cowboys Stadium.
"I'd say Cedarious was about 4 years old when he started telling me he wanted to be a football player," said the football star's proud father, Cedric Barfield. "I never really pushed him or anything. I just always said, 'You can be whatever you want to be, so long as you believe and trust in the man above.'"
Barfield said Cedarious was ready to suit up at age 5, when teams like the Fort Drum Tiny Mites had not yet formed. When he turned 7, he began playing for the Fort Drum Mountaineers (Mighty Mites). The following year, Barfield volunteered to assist in coaching his son's team and has been his assistant coach ever since.
Barfield, a former Army cannon crewmember, played football in his youth as well. He said coaches in high school told him he may be small, but he had "heart" -- so they made him an offensive lineman. Weighing a paltry 150 pounds, he blocked huge defensive ends and tackles.
But in college, Barfield said poor grades kept him from advancing.
"That's why I stress to Cedarious to balance the two," he said. "I tell him you got to have good grades to be successful."
The Fort Drum Mountaineers consists of four age-appropriate football teams. Each team is part of Greater Watertown Pop Warner Football League. Pop Warner leagues provide youth football, cheerleading and dance around the country while also requiring athletes to maintain certain academic standards.
Cedarious's mother, a Soldier who recently returned from Afghanistan, said in addition to his athleticism and religious devotion, she is proud of her son's grades at Indian River Middle School.
"He knows that in order for him to succeed in sports, he needs to do good in school," said Sgt. 1st Class Ellatshia Barfield, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment. "He's not just good in sports, he makes good grades."
The Barfields, who also have a 2-year-old daughter named Ty'ane Heavenly, will travel to Texas this holiday season for a week of events leading up to the nationally televised Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, which showcases up to 80 football players of the nation's top high school seniors.
Barfield said some high school All-American players at the bowl game already have NCAA Division 1 scholarships and typically sign autographs for the younger players.
"It's really something else," he said, recalling last year's event in Myrtle Beach. "These kids come together. They have never seen each other. But the fact that they are All-Americans, they work together, share their talents, and those kids looked like pros playing out there."
At Fort Drum, Barfield said the parents of other players often approach him and tell him they can't believe it's Cedarious behind the No. 6 jersey, especially after his fancy footwork and finesse mesmerize crowds and opponents alike.
"Cedarious's heart is what gives him his characteristics. He's a totally different person off the field," Barfield said. "A lot of parents come to me and say they like that about him. They see the talent, but he doesn't go around bragging about it.
"I tell Cedarious that the good Lord has put him in this position to be a light for others."