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Peyton Barber’s father offers context to running back’s ‘homeless’ comments at NFL scouting combine

Auburn running back Peyton Barber speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.
Auburn running back Peyton Barber speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. AP Photo

The dramatic headlines Wednesday about Peyton Barber’s motivations for declaring for the NFL draft are at odds with the reality of a domestic situation not without its complications according to his father.

Peyton Barber made waves when he told reporters at the NFL scouting combine the reason he declared for this year’s draft.

“My mother is homeless right now,” Barber said. “Right now she’s staying with my sister. It’s her and her three kids staying in an apartment back home.”

Peyton’s father Ken painted a different picture in January, two days after his son made the announcement he was forgoing his final two years of eligibility at Auburn.

In a lengthy interview about the process with the Ledger-Enquirer, Ken Barber addressed his son’s motivation and specifically denied that finances played any part in the discussion.

“This is not a decision cause he has to support family,” Ken Barber said. “He’s eating well, doesn’t have to worry about his clothes or staying warm at night.”

The Barber family spent weeks researching Peyton’s draft prospects with Ken pointing to injury risks, the talent in next year’s draft class and his son’s close proximity to graduation (30 credits remaining) as influencing factors.

His comments were directly at odds with what Peyton told reporters Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine.

“She never pressured me to do anything,” Barber said of his mother. “I just decided to do what’s best for me and my family.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Ken Barber clarified Peyton’s comments.

“All of this has been taken so out of context,” Ken Barber said. “It has taken off like wildfire.”

Ken and Peyton’s mother Lori divorced 18 years ago after having two children — Peyton and his older sister.

Ken remarried and lives with his wife Lisa and their three children while Lori lives with their 27-year old daughter and three grandchildren.

“(Lori) She has faced her own challenges,” Ken Barber said. “Everybody has done a number of things to try and help her, but she isn’t suffering for anything.”

Ken Barber said his former wife has moved around “quite extensively” in recent years, but hasn’t been without a roof over her head while Peyton was growing up.

“Her and my daughter chose to live together,” Ken Barber said. “She’s not homeless.”

Peyton’s former running backs coach at Milton High School Gary Sylvestri never knew anyone in the Barber family to be homeless.

“In the time I’ve known the family going back to the three years I coached Peyton in high school Lori always had an apartment or place to live,” Sylvestri said. “We would always be picking up players to drive them to or from practice, and we would always be dropping Peyton off to one of his parents.”

Ken Barber understands his son’s desire to provide financial stability for Lori Barber, but denies that her living situation pushed Peyton into the draft.

“This was not done to take care of his mom,” Ken Barber said. “I want to make this totally clear. His mom isn’t down and out. He doesn’t have to take care of his family. It’s been totally misunderstood.”

Barber is projected to be a late-round pick in the draft, but has a chance at the combine to improve his draft status.

On Friday, the running backs at the combine go through position-specific drills along with tests that include the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle. Barber spent the weeks leading up to the event training at the IMG Academy in Florida.

The combine also gives NFL executives, coaching staffs and scouts from all 32 teams the chance to evaluate collegiate prospects through an interview process and medical exams.

Barber is one of eight former Auburn players at this year’s combine in Indianapolis and one of three players (Shon Coleman and Avery Young) who declared early for the draft.

“At the end of the day this weekend is all about him showcasing his ability,” Sylvestri said. “Everybody is looking for a story, but these are distractions he doesn’t need. I don’t think anybody had an ill intent, but it sometimes happens when there is a media blitz.”

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