Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge is 30 years old. Most would call him a young man — a millennial, even! He was 4 when the Berlin Wall came down, one of his favorite actors is Jonah Hill, and he’s participated in a reality TV dating show.
In NFL years, though, he’s a geezer. Our perceptions of the average age of an NFL player are sometimes skewed by visibility — the best players tend to have the longest careers. But only 19 percent of active players are 30 or older, and most players peak in their mid-to-late 20s. Which is why it’s impressive that Barnidge is having the best season of his career, by far:
Barnidge has 667 receiving yards for the Browns through 10 games (on pace for 1,067), plus seven touchdowns. That’s more than the 603 yards he totaled in his first seven seasons. This kind of late blooming is rare: The table below shows all players who had at least 500 receiving yards in a season after turning 30 and in that season surpassed their career total up to that point.1
|PLAYER||AGE||YEAR||POS||SEASON #||IN SEASON||CAREER PRIOR|
These are not exactly household names — it’s tough to build a memorable career with such a late start, and most of these players had just the one good NFL season to their name. Barnidge’s closest comp is probably Pat Curran, another tight end with a particularly belated breakout season (seven years in, to Barnidge’s eight). Curran faded after 1975, tallying 349, 123 and 92 yards in his last three seasons, but Barnidge could be on pace for a lot more yardage in his breakout year. Although the list above can’t make anyone optimistic about his prospects, the Cleveland end is in uncharted territory.