UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having waited a full year to put a helmet back on, defensive end Brad Bars couldn't help running onto the field on March 17 for Penn State's first spring practice with great excitement.
Bars has been eligible to play in 50 games since he stepped on campus in the fall of 2010. He redshirted during his freshman campaign. That coupled with leg and Achilles injuries have forced the Nashville, Tenn., native to miss 28 games during the past four seasons.
The senior ruptured his Achilles during a routine workout during summer conditioning prior to last season. After a long road to recovery in the training room and countless hours of rehab, Bars is back on the field and ready to play a role on the Nittany Lion defensive line in 2014.
"I believe if I can stay healthy that I don't think there's anything I can't accomplish this season," Bars said. "If I stay healthy I can do some pretty great things."
The Achilles injury rehab is ongoing, but Bars has been a full participant in non-contact drills this spring. His fellow defensive teammates are fired up about his return to the field.
"It's great to have him back out there. He's really an intense guy," senior linebacker Mike Hull said. "Always goes 100 miles an hour. He's really smart and he helps a lot of the younger guys and even the older guys. He does a really good job of on-field coaching and telling guys what they need to work on. It's definitely an asset to have him back out there."
Always enthusiastic and upbeat, Bars faced the Achilles injury with a tremendous attitude. Knowing he was going to be a spectator throughout the fall didn't deter Bars from helping the team in any manner possible.
"Last year was probably the hardest thing I've ever been through," Bars said. "Once I got hurt I looked at the big picture and said what can I do to help? I made a decision I had to contribute and help this team, right when I got injured, and I knew that if I stayed involved, there wouldn't be a transition coming back," Bars said.
The senior defensive end is poised to play an instrumental role on a talented Nittany Lion defensive line, which features a host of returnees with playing experience. Deion Barnes, C.J. Olaniyan, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson all bring significant game experience to the field in 2014.
While the countdown clock for the UCF game in Dublin, Ireland, is at 148 days, Bars is thrilled to have the opportunity to make an impact.
"My teammates believe in me and they've seen what I can do in practices," Bars said. "I have expectations of a veteran. My goals are to keep working and to keep progressing with my rehab."
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