Aurora rising senior AJ Barner is a bit of a "late bloomer" when it comes to playing football and making an impact on the field.
Barner will enter the 2019 season with one varsity letter in football and he will do so as an Ohio University recruit after committing to play football on scholarship with the Bobcats.
Barner is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound athlete who plays linebacker and tight end for Aurora head coach Bob Mihalik. Barner said the Bobcats are recruiting him to play defensive end.
"I started receiving interest from schools this winter," he said. "Ohio was actually the first school to come in and talk to me. I ended up receiving an offer from the staff after their camp in June. I felt that it was the right fit for me because of the opportunity I would have to play football and earn a great education.
"Also the college town feel felt right for me."
Barner said he chose Ohio over scholarship offers from the University of Akron, Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, Ball State, Youngstown State and Eastern Michigan.
"I am really happy for AJ," Mihalik said. "He came in as a 5-foot-8, 150-pound freshman boy and has worked his tail off to become a 6-foot-5, 225-pound young man. He will be a force at middle linebacker for us and will give us a tight end who can block and catch the ball down the field. Ohio U is getting an excellent player with great character. He has excellent quickness and agility, and has a nose for the football."
Barner helped Aurora post a 7-3 record in 2018 with a 4-2 mark in the Suburban League American Conference. Barner had a team-high 114 tackles (49 solo), five sacks, eight tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
"Entering high school, I wrestled freshman year at only 126 pounds and also played football," said Barner, who has a 3.0 grade point average. "I decided I wanted to focus on football, though. Being somewhat of a late bloomer junior year, I had developed into a starter and lettered."