DOTD: Saquon Barkley Brightens Someone’s Day
Penn State class of 2015 commit and four-star running back Saquon Barkley has made quite a name for himself. He flipped his commitment from Rutgers last February, finished a stellar senior season at Whitehall High School, and was named Mr. PA Football this February.
But aside from his ability to pick great programs and play great football — it turns out Barkley is also a genuine sweetheart.
Barkley made it to the East Penn Conference and Colonial League Track and Field Championships last week with his teammates at his school’s home field. This offseason, he ran track for the first time to stay in shape for football. It wasn’t the fact he earned a gold medal that made the event noteworthy, but his act of kindness to set things straight for a complete stranger.
Rachel Panek, a sophomore from Saucon Valley High School, came to the event to compete in the 100-meter hurdles and the high jump. Her first event was the 100-meter hurdles. The runners took off at the sound of the gun, but the timing system malfunctioned. Panek made her way through the hurdles and finished first. Unfortunately, since the times were not officially recorded, they couldn’t count the race. After a 30-minute deliberation with the coaches, they decided to have the girls run the race again.
Panek finished the event and went on to the high jump. After she went twice in the high jump, she was informed she would have to run the 100-meter hurdles again. She was worn out from her other events but gave the re-race her all. She clipped a hurdle the second time around though, and finished eighth in the event she won earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, Barkley finished first in his event at the Zephyr Sports Complex and received his first gold medal for the boys 100-meter sprint. Panek and Barkley never officially met, but she held his starting blocks for him in the race he eventually won. Barkley heard what happened to Panek and felt compelled to do something.
“It’s really hard to explain,” Barkley told The Morning Call, “but something inside of me told me it’d be the right thing to do to give her my medal. Honestly, I love winning races and receiving medals, but I felt she deserved it, too. Everyone saw that girl win her race.”
[pullquote]”It’s not the fact that I didn’t get a medal or first place in the league that I’ll remember,” Panek said. “It’s that somebody noticed and that someone cared enough to make my day by giving me something that meant a lot to them.”[/pullquote]
Barkley discussed the decision with his coach and went on a search for Panek in the sea of student-athletes. Barkley finally found where she was, and got some people to help him out.
“It was about two hours after my race,” Panek said, “and one of my friends came over and pulled me into the group of friends [Barkley] was with. He said to me, ‘You held my blocks. I saw your race and you should’ve won. You deserve this.’ He literally handed me his gold medal. I was kind of in shock. I hugged him, we took a couple pictures. I have the medal.”
In a video interview with The Morning Call, Panek said it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. Barkley, standing by her side, just smiled humbly and sheepishly added, “it felt like the right thing to do.”
On top of that, Barkley was honored this week by the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives for his athletic achievements and “continuing commitment to excellence.”
It seems Coach Franklin is recruiting great football players, and great young men.
(h/t Morning Call)