By the time the 2020 NFL Draft ended, Krys Barnes says a permanent chip had been formed on his shoulder.
Though he was almost immediately scooped up by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent, the Bakersfield native and former Liberty High School linebacker admits there was a sting in not hearing his name called, one he expects he'll be feeling for the foreseeable future.
“That’s going to drive me forever," Barnes said in a Zoom call with members of the Green Bay media earlier this week. "I feel for me, being passed up on by 31 other teams is going to drive me to no end. I want to get better every day, continue to prove that I belong here, continue to make those teams feel like they missed on something great.”
If his first NFL game is an indicator of where his career is going, regret may already be setting in for several organizations around the league.
Roughly 24 hours after being promoted from the practice squad, Barnes got a surprise start at inside linebacker when the Packers opened the season with a 43-34 road win over the division rival Minnesota Vikings.
The start concluded an "emotional rollercoaster" stretch for Barnes, who was cut by the Packers just eight days before the start of the regular season. But after resurfacing on the team's practice squad, Barnes got a call he'd been waiting his entire life for last Saturday, informing him that he'd been activated to the 53-man roster.
Though he was excited by the news of Saturday, the weight of the moment wasn't truly felt until he exited the locker room and took the field at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
"Shoot, walking out on the field, that's when it was really official," he said. "It's one of those dreams I've dreamt of since I was a kid so to be able to accomplish that was definitely a blessing."
Not content to merely hold a roster spot, Barnes quickly made his presence felt on the field.
Despite playing only 15 defensive snaps, Barnes, who also played on special teams, was credited with seven tackles. He also recorded two tackles for loss, with one of those stops earning him a great deal of attention.
With just under six minutes to play in the third quarter, the Vikings were in Packer territory. Trying to cut into Green Bay's 22-10 lead, they drew up a play to their most explosive offensive weapon.
Running back Dalvin Cook, who accounted for more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage a season ago, caught a screen pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins and had only Barnes standing between him and a sizable gain.
But with a pair of offensive linemen closing in on him, Barnes made a quick cut inside and was able to grab Cook by the ankle, dragging him down for a two-yard loss. Two plays later, the drive stalled at the Green Bay 39 via a turnover on downs.
“Truly, I just wanted to get outside, force it back," Barnes said of the play. "But I felt like the way I was coming, my angle was good. Just took a shot and ended up making a tackle.”
His efforts drew praise from Packer coach Matt LaFleur, who told reporters "Krys did an unbelievable job of diagnosing that play and making the tackle."
Barnes will attempt to build on his promising start this Sunday when the Packers host another division rival, the Detroit Lions, in his first game at Lambeau Field at 10 a.m. PST.
After not getting to play in a single preseason game, expectations are only going to increase for Barnes as he begins to see more game reps, and he says he's eager to take on more responsibilities with the defense.
“I’m still learning," he said. "Still have a long way to go. Coaches are definitely helping me, players are helping me as we go throughout the day. I’m just trying to get better and be someone they can rely on and know that whenever I’m in the game or at practice, whatever it is, they can trust me to do my job.”