After a Penn State men’s soccer game, the box score will note that a forward like Julian Cardona might have scored a goal, or a playmaker like John Gallagher might have been credited with an assist.
The stat sheet might even point out that Andrew Wolverton or Emmanuel Martin did well to keep the ball out of the net.
However, rarely will anyone see Jacob Barron’s name mentioned in the stat line for the Nittany Lions.
The senior midfielder hasn’t tallied a point this season and only picked up three in 2011 with a goal and an assist.
It’s not because he’s untalented by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s not because he fails to contribute.
But instead, it’s because the senior midfielder is the player on the Lions’ roster who does the dirty work, makes the second effort, and chases down a loose ball.
“He’s everything you need in a midfielder… He never stops running, and he never gives up, which brings such a lift to the team,” midfielder Daniel Burnham said.
It’s underrated efforts like these that don’t show up when you glance at a sheet of paper, but it’s these things that could be one of the biggest reasons why the Lions have had success this year. The Lions are atop the Big Ten conference standings, and they might not be in that position if it weren’t for Barron’s play.
To say that Barron has made an indelible dent in the Lions’ midfield over the past couple of seasons would be an understatement.
In the last two seasons, Barron has started in 37 consecutive games. He’s also only one of three players to have started every game in 2012.
Many players like Owen Griffith and Minh Vu have created scoring chances by pushing the ball through the midfield.
However, the approach Barron takes is completely different considering his role as a center defensive midfielder.
Considering all his other responsibilities, Barron doesn’t have time to worry about scoring.
At the center defensive midfielder position, the seasoned veteran is too busy retaining distribution of the ball near the defense, harrying opposing strikers, and providing a safety net before the back line.
With all of that combined and considered, one of Barron’s key roles this year has been to sniff out on-coming counterattacks and dispose of it — and he does it with the firmness of concrete.
“He does a good job keeping a hold of the ball in our defensive third, preventing easy counter attacks [by the opposition],” said Cardona, the Lions’ leading scorer.
Not only is he covering the counter, but Barron is sometimes responsible for more than one position.
As if he wasn’t busy enough to begin with.
Defensive midfielders normally have to take on more responsibilities when opposing forwards have broken into the attack, causing Barron to sometimes have to cover positions of full-back and centre-back.
However, the senior’s speed and shiftiness around the ball allows him to handle these responsibilities without too much trouble.
“There’s different defensive midfielders out there, but being able to cover a lot of ground is a part of my role and my responsibility,” Barron said. “But I don’t think of it as ‘Oh, I have to run over here or over there,’ but it’s more of just trying to help out my teammates.”
Even though Barron spent his first two collegiate years of eligibility at UC Davis, his presence in the midfield the past two seasons has allowed him to grow into a dependable leader of the team.
And considering his position and all the responsibilities he’s tasked with on a game-to-game basis, it’s all about Barron’s sheer desire to get the job done.
“The pure part of him is just heart,” coach Bob Warming said. “There’s more athletic midfielders in the conference. There’s more athletic midfielders in the country, but he has the biggest heart.”