Opportunity knocks for Allen Barbre

Eagles offensive linemen Allen Barbre and Lane Johnson. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Football hasn't always been kind to Allen Barbre, not when it comes to finding himself in the right spot at the right time during his professional career, but it has been good enough that there is a nice, little place on the lake waiting for him in southwest Missouri.

"Yeah, when I'm done, I'm going to go back home," Barbre said.

There are bass in the lake and deer in the woods, if Barbre can find a tree stand sturdy enough to hold him, but those will wait, too, and he's not really in any hurry now.

For once, time, place and opportunity seem to have come together for the 6-foot-4, 310-pound offensive lineman. He earned a home with the Eagles as a versatile reserve last season and, as a result of Lane Johnson's four-game suspension, he enters the season as the team's starting right tackle.

"I'm not looking at this as taking Lane's spot or anything like that," Barbre said. "I'm just looking at it as an opportunity to play. I feel like in this business and in life, opportunity is everything, and I've had some bad luck in my career."

Back in Newton County, where the corners of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas nearly collide, he tells young people that you never know what might happen, and that's why you have to keep working and stay focused. Turns out he might have been right all this time.

"There are a ton of scenarios that fall into place when you're playing," Barbre said after the Eagles' open practice at Lincoln Financial Field. "Maybe my game's coming together at just the right time. In the past, it wasn't the right time and sometimes that's what it is, you know."

Barbre always had size going for him, a "big, ol' country boy," in the words of Larry Bunn, who coached him at East Newton High School in Granby, Mo. He had more than just that, though. Barbre was athletic enough to play varsity basketball and, if he had ever stopped growing, would have probably been a tight end.

"Well, he had to play tackle for us because he was such a good lineman, but he has very good hands. He could have been a great receiver," Bunn said. "When schools came to recruit him, I'd say, 'Watch him play basketball. You won't believe his speed and quickness and what kind of athlete he is.' Oh, he had all the tools, and I'm very proud of him."

Good as he was for East Newton, Barbre had opportunities to go to a Division I school, but wasn't ready to settle in that far from home. He enrolled at Missouri Southern State, just up the road in Joplin, and was the starting left tackle for four years. In his senior season, he was the lead bulldozer on an offensive line that paved the way for 3,461 yards of offense.

"That school was the perfect fit for him," Bunn said. "They even had him on the punt coverage team and he'd go down and make a lot of tackles. That's pretty good for a big boy."

"He's a freak of a talent," said Bart Tatum, one of Barbre's head coaches at Missouri Southern State and now the offensive line coach at Sam Houston State University. "Timing is everything, but I have not understood how he's not on the field more in the NFL. I've been waiting for him to have a breakout season."

Barbre was drafted in the fourth round by Green Bay in 2007, but his only real shot with the Packers came in 2010 and it came on the right side of the line, where he hadn't played before. After seven starts at right tackle he was benched and after that season, he drifted from Seattle to Miami and Seattle again before landing in Philadelphia.

He's back on the right side again now, older and wiser and, he hopes, a lot better. Barbre joins an offensive line that is talented, but doesn't have a lot of depth behind it. If he doesn't work out, the season could have a difficult start.

"I do have some experience on the right side, so it's not like I'm just starting fresh completely," Barbre said. "It's a switch for me, position-wise, but my mind-set is to come out and work hard and focus on what I want to get better at every day."

"He's still learning," said left tackle Jason Peters. "Everything is opposite. You know the plays but you've got to flip-flop everything. Right now, he's thinking more than he's playing, but once he gets the confidence, he'll roll right off the ball. We believe in him 100 percent."

And sometimes, you just have to believe that the football world will finally line up perfectly for you. Time and place. For Barbre, the place is the deep oak forests of the Ozarks. He'll get there eventually. As for the right time, just maybe, on the field with the Philadelphia Eagles, that might be right now.