Saquon Barkley always remained adamant that he’d play in Penn State’s bowl game, regardless of circumstance. His NFL future. He was rewarded with a Fiesta Bowl victory — something he’ll forever be a part of when historians and pundits alike look back on how Penn State football returned to national prominence.
After his stellar performance that included 137 yards and two scores on the ground, Barkley remained reflective, instead of forecasting his NFL future on a night reserved for the celebration of a program.
“The things going through my mind right now is I’m excited. I’m happy that we were able to send the seniors off on a good note,” Barkley said. “Talking about that fourth down situation, I can’t get that third-down situation out of my head. I gotta eliminate that in general. I’ve got to find a way to reach and get that other yard.”
“With that decision, I’m not really focused on that. I’m just living in the moment and enjoying it and cherish this moment with the seniors especially with guys like Ham. And those guys are so special and I’m so thankful to call those guys my brothers and my teammates.”
He’s echoed this sentiment throughout the course of the pre-bowl process — and he should be lauded for that. Even if his mind up — which, in all honesty, might not even be the case — Barkley didn’t steal the stage; the All-American running back shared the moment with his team.
The truth of the matter is this: Saquon Barkley didn’t have to play in this game. Like scores of other talented players before him — including a handful of players expected to be drafted lower than Barkley if he were to declare for this year’s NFL Draft — he could’ve merely sat out and immediately begun training for the draft. Some players didn’t even join their team for the bowl game. But for Barkley, it’s bigger. He sees the bigger picture, and for him, the bigger picture meant playing an integral role in putting his program back in the spotlight.
2018 may bring sweeter fruits, and there will be a host of talented players coming up through the ranks to help replace his vast production if Barkley leaves. But maybe he won’t, and maybe he’ll stay around to chase the national championship dream once more and set every record there is to have at Penn State. If he does, he should be commended. If he doesn’t, he should be applauded for everything he’s given this program.
Saquon Barkley is one of the most important players to ever play in Happy Valley. Last night’s performance was a reminder of that.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 31, 2017