Countdown To Blue-White: Saquon Barkley Matured As A Leader After Meeting With Dak Prescott
Saquon Barkley has already experienced the role of being Penn State’s breakout performer. He’s also experienced being the team’s face, the star that opponents game plan for most. In 2017, the junior hopes to take on a new role.
Barkley’s goal during this offseason: become the Nittany Lions’ leader.
While he won’t see much time on the field in action during spring ball, the Heisman candidate has plans for how to use his time taking in the game from the sidelines.
“Obviously you want to compete, I’m a competitor,” Barkley said. “But it makes you look at the game differently. You get to see stuff that you wouldn’t see if you were in the game or taking the practice rep. You get to see the field a lot better and it teaches you to be a leader. Not all the time, you’re going to be the one making the play.”
Through two years of crucial experience, learning from veterans in the backfield like Akeel Lynch as well as taking personal moments like fighting through injury, Barkley’s become one of the veterans that players can lean on — no longer just a young star.
He’s aware of that, hoping to take that experience this offseason and push younger players on this team.
“I just try to take the knowledge that I have from the two years I have been playing and not only from myself, but kind of guys who have experience,” Barkley said. “Especially people coming from defense to offense or people who are going through their first spring ball, I try to give them advice and try to teach them what to do on this play or the little things you can do to take a negative and make it a positive.”
Part of being a leader is guiding through actions — something Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton, Marcus Allen, and Mark Allen did with their trip to Florida for training over spring break.
While working out in the gym in Orlando, the four came across Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who just so happened to be there training as well.
“It was really cool to work out with Dak Prescott,” Barkley said. “To see the knowledge he has from the game and what he learned from his first year [in the NFL].”
While it just happened by circumstance, the meeting is all part of this continued transcendence in Barkley’s leadership plans. From a guy that’s been in similar shoes living up to stardom, Barkley took a few things from the Pro Bowler.
“I learned a lot,” Barkley said. “How to be a leader, how to lead a team, how to come to practice every single day, and how to be a pro, pretty much. Obviously I’m still in college, but if you can be a pro about your body and a pro about how you approach practice and how you try be a leader, you just overall become a better player.”
You could say Barkley has been taking care of his body pretty well this offseason with the 5-foot-11 223-lb running back tying Anthony Zettel’s (a man who’s 60 pounds heavier than Barkley) 390-pound power clean team record and recording the team’s fastest 40-yard dash of the spring at 4.33 seconds, which would’ve been fourth fastest overall and fastest of all running backs at this year’s NFL Combine.
As Barkley continues his rise with the Nittany Lions, so does Penn State’s offense. Returning a number of starters from last season, it’s not going to take any particular heroics for Joe Moorhead’s squad to continue to thrive this season.
“The biggest difference from last spring to this spring is the offensive side of the ball.” Barkley said. “We kind of know what we’re doing now. We were installing a new offense last year and you could feel like a lot of people were hesitant. But to this year, it’s something that we’ve been doing the whole season.”
For Barkley’s development, that’s key. Being able to step into a sound offense can only allow him to grow on the field. Off the field, his opportunity to drive this team forward is about to come to life in the run-up to the Blue-White Game for the 2017 season.