Hello World: Saquon Barkley Addresses The Media For The First Time
No, Saquon Barkley didn’t utter the phrase Tiger Woods made famous during a 1996 press conference, but he might as well have given the hype surrounding his first-ever media appearance. It’s a time-honored tradition at Penn State for freshmen to be withheld from the media with Christian Hackenberg being a notable exception, so the only Barkley we knew was the 18-year old we saw carving up defenses week after week. But after Wednesday’s practice session, that changed.
World, meet Saquon Barkley.
Admittedly a little nervous (and visibly shivering given the unseasonably chilly temperatures at the team’s practice field), Barkley gave the media a peek inside his mind after a life-changing freshman season in which he ran for 1,076 yards, seven touchdowns, and broke D.J. Dozier’s 32-year old freshman rushing record. Despite the immediate success he experienced, Barkley was humble as he discussed the aspirations he had for his first year. “Realistically, I just wanted to start as a true freshman,” Barkley said. “I never thought I would have a 1,000 yard rushing season.”
Success of such great magnitude can often creep inside the head of younger athletes, but through it all, Barkley’s remained the same goofy teenager he’s been all along despite all the attention. “I just try and block it out if it does happen,” Barkley said. “But I’m just a normal guy who likes to hang out with friends and stuff like that.”
Physically, Barkley is on another level. To put it one way, the guy is shredded. He arrived on campus fresh off his senior year of high school hovering around 220 pounds, and weight-wise he’s still in that neighborhood. But after a winter under the watchful eye of Director of Performance Enhancement Dwight Galt, Barkley’s grown leaps and bounds in terms of strength and speed since last season. Remember, that 4.38 40 yard dash he posted during winter workouts would’ve been the seventh fastest time at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine — and he’s only 19 years old. Barkley spoke on his physical condition after a successful offseason in Galt’s program.
“Physically I feel amazing, I mean coach Galt does a great job,” Barkley explained. “I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life, and the fastest I’ve ever been. It was new with the winter workouts and definitely different than what I’ve ever done before, but that helped me get better as a player physically, but also mentally. It helped me push myself past my limits.”
One simply cannot talk to Barkley without addressing the famous hurdle he executed over a Buffalo defender during the second game of the 2015 season. While the moment may have catapulted him into the national spotlight, that game served as a moment of realization for Barkley. “There was never a time when I thought I was ‘The Guy,'” Barkley said. “The Buffalo game is where I realized that I could actually play at this level, and that I could compete. That helped my confidence grow.”
Barkley spoke for a few more minutes after, touching on his relationship with teammates and whether or not he’s a better dancer than Mark Allen (Nick Scott says he’s the best of the three, for the record) before heading back into the locker room. The large media contingency on hand became a little more familiar with the player who could go down as one of the best running backs in school history if last season’s performance is any indication. But Barkley’s just a regular guy. He lets his play speak for himself, and has graciously accepted a leadership role on an offense that desperately needs one.
Barkley is primed to do great things in 2016, but hopefully now fans have a better understanding of the type of person he is. Humble, driven, and passionate. But he’s just a normal college student like you and me; the only difference is he’s one of the best young running backs in the entire country.