Gary Barnidge was named one of NFL.com's "Top 100 Players of 2016" on Wednesday night, making his first-ever appearance on the annual list voted by fellow players.
Barnidge, who came in at No. 94, caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns in a breakout season in 2015. He was Cleveland's go-to target last year, and his nine scores tied Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Newsome for the most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
"I don't mind getting hit, I know I'm going to get hit going across the middle that stuff I can handle, I can take that stuff," Barnidge said in the network's pre-produced video. "That's not an issue for me."
Prior to last year, Barnidge played less of a role in the pass game and served more as a blocking tight end. As a result, it took some players by surprise when he became such a downfield threat.
"I feel like Gary Barnidge was like literally under the radar," said Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis. "Like, nobody knew who he was until you see these plays that he's making."
At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Barnidge used his size, speed and crisp route-running to earn his first-ever trip to the Pro Bowl.
"He makes it easy for the quarterback to find him," Browns center Cameron Erving said. "He has a big catch radius, that's what the quarterbacks call it."
"He's like one of those former basketball players, he's going to use his body to his advantage and I think that's what he really does well," said Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu
"For him to stay consistent that entire year, that lets you know how much he's grown as a football player."
Barnidge is equally active off the field, co-founding in 2013 "American Football without Barriers" (www.AFWBCamp.com), which provides educational football camps in countries that don't have football, in addition to several other programs aimed at reaching the community in Cleveland.