Earlier this year, Episcopal Academy running back DeeWil Barlee received two offers to play college football.
“I got my first offer and that was great, I was pretty stoked about that,” Barlee said Tuesday night. “Then I got another one, same feeling, I was still happy.”
The two college programs that coveted his talents were Army and Rhode Island. Barlee couldn’t go wrong with either institution. He also garnered interest from a handful of other programs, including Rutgers and Fordham.
“But I was missing the offer that I really wanted,” Barlee said.
At the behest of Episcopal head coach Todd Fairlie, Barlee seized an opportunity in June to attend a Villanova recruiting camp. It was his chance to make a strong first impression. Villanova was one of his top choices.
“Coach Fairlie told me to go to the camp, which I did have planned, in June,” he said. “We talked and he said that I think this is a good opportunity. I was like, ‘Sign me up, coach.’”
Barlee said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante and running backs coach Brian Jones had been talking to him prior to the camp. “So they knew who I was a little bit,” he said. “I went there and I performed pretty well, and then from there, the next day I got a phone call and they said they were going to offer me.”
Barlee officially made his verbal commitment June 25.
“I felt pretty accomplished because Villanova was one of my top schools since freshman year coming into Episcopal,” he said. “For them to offer me, to pay for my tuition and to be a top school of mine, it was just a done deal. Once they offered me it was like, there’s not much else I want. To get the opportunity to play at Villanova, that’s a huge opportunity.
“Going into this whole recruiting process … my main goal was to get a school to offer me a scholarship and to be able to play the next level.”
There wasn’t anything in particular that Barlee wanted to accomplish at the camp, but he knew he had to stand out. His nerves were quelled a bit on the drive to the Main Line from his home in Upper Darby.
“Driving up to the camp, I was with my brother and he knows that I always try my hardest. I was putting on all this extra pressure on myself, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to underachieve at the camp,’” Barlee said. “My brother said to me, ‘Listen, man, you’re going to go out and ball like you always do.’ That’s all I needed to hear. I didn’t have any extra pressure. I was very relaxed going through the drills and it showed at the end of the day.”
Barlee noted a funny moment he shared with the running backs coach Jones upon learning he had been offered a scholarship by Villanova.
“Coach Jones, he made a joke out of it. He said that when we shook hands when we met, he said I had some pretty big hands and that he’s been around running backs with some pretty big hands who have been very good,” Barlee said. “But all jokes aside, they said to me that even though I’m not the biggest guy (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), that I just know how to make it work. They think I’m a smart football player, that I can make plays and they think I can be a great football player at Villanova.”
Barlee is one of the toughest, no-nonsense running backs in the area.
As for the upcoming 2018 season, the final in what has been a stellar career at Episcopal, Barlee intends to make it one he’ll never forget. Last fall, he accrued 1,268 yards and 20 touchdowns en route to leading the Churchmen to a 6-4 overall record and earning All-Delco honors. Barlee set the school record for most points in a season with 132, surpassing former NFL player Kyle Eckel’s previous mark of 120 points. He had a career day in September against Conwell-Egan when he ran for 259 yards and five touchdowns. In the season finale, a 35-21 victory over The Haverford School, Barlee amassed 200 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to his offensive exploits, Barlee is a safety for the Churchmen and typically never takes a play off.
“I’ve worked very hard to improve,” he said. “I am studying film more rapidly and understanding how to break down a defense. On top of that, in the late-winter and early-spring, since track season I’ve been working on my speed. I’ve gotten faster. So, other than that, I’m coming back not the same player. I’m coming back better than I was last year. There’s always room for improvement for me, that’s how I look at it. I am never satisfied, never perfect. I’ve got to keep fine-tuning my skills because that’s how you get caught up in defenses getting used to what you do as a player.
“I’ve got to keep on changing what I do to be a better football player.”