As a 6 foot, 230-pound athlete with equally ridiculous speed and power, Saquon Barkley is primed to be one of the league’s most exciting tailbacks from the first handoff he takes on September 9 against Jacksonville. We got a chance to sit down with the rookie sensation to cover his journey to stardom and how he is ready to seize the spotlight in the Big Apple.
From Starting In High School
Q: Let’s flash back to your time at Whitehall (PA) High School. You dominated there and seemed to make a major jump between your sophomore and junior year. How were you able to take your game to the next level?
A: The biggest reason I jumped from my sophomore to my junior year was my change in mindset. I made it up in my mind that I wanted to play college football, and once I did that, that’s when the work ethic improved. I started to push myself in the weight room and in conditioning. Even off the field, I started doing better in school. I just started challenging myself every day, and once I did that, everything on the field took care of itself.
Q: Despite dominating, ESPN had you ranked as 24 th best running back. Did you use that as motivation? How did that impact your season and what you were looking to do?
A: Actually, at one point I was ranked 60 th . Coming into Nike The Opening (in 2014), I was ranked the 60th best running back in the country. But that just made me want to prove a point. When I got to the Opening and competed against some of the top guys, I did really well. That helped me get to the top level and boost me to that 24 th spot. And I carried that motivation into college. I wanted to prove to those teams that didn’t offer me that they made a mistake.
To Growing In College
Q: So you make it to Penn State, but you weren’t the lead back right away. How were you able to stay ready for your chance and continue to grow as a player?
A: That was all about continuing to challenge myself. When I got to Penn State, I didn’t say ‘I want to be the starter right away.’ We had an established guy and I just wanted to learn from him. I just wanted to play as a freshman and I was going to do whatever I could to play. If that meant playing special teams or being on the scout team — I was going to do that. I carried that approach into the weight room. As my numbers in the weight room continued to grow, I got faster and better on the football field.
Q: Looking back on your time at Penn State, what made it the perfect spot for you?
A: I was actually originally committed to a different college. They offered me off of my JV highlight tape and based on my potential. I committed on spot, but the decision to flip to Penn State actually wasn’t just about football. Obviously, Penn State football is amazing and a great opportunity, but I also felt like Penn State gave me a better chance after football. I envisioned myself being here (in the pros), but you have to think ‘what if?’ A Penn State education takes you a long way.
To Being Ready For The Pros
Q: Now it’s time for the pro game – how have you stepped up your training to get ready for your rookie season?
A: Something I started changing about my work habits this offseason is that it’s not so much about how much you can lift, but now, it’s about longevity. You’ve got to keep your body healthy. I’ve been working on my speed and explosion, and making sure that what I’m doing in the weight room transitions onto the football field.
Q: Take us back to draft day, when you got that phone call from New York. What was that moment like?
A: A lot of people think you know where you’re going before you get that call, and you actually have no idea. When I got that call, it was special because of the people that were at the table with me – my mom and my dad on my left, my brothers and sisters, my agents, my high school coaches. These were all the people that really cared and mattered in my life. My mom and dad worked so hard to help me get to that point. Having them there made it 10 times more special.