Saquon Barkley Comes Home For Youth Football Camp In Happy Valley
Penn State football legend Saquon Barkley was back in town on Saturday for his youth football camp at Holuba Hall.
Barkley spent the morning assisting the day’s coaches — which included current Nittany Lion players KJ Hamler, Micah Parsons, and Lamont Wade, among others — and playing some 7-on-7 with the kids in attendance.
It was a fun-filled morning in which kids got some 1-on-1 instruction from the New York Giants’ star. A few lucky campers even got the chance to put on some moves and shatter Barkley’s ankles.
Once all the fun wrapped up, Barkley addressed the media and talked about a number of topics, ranging from fatherhood to his cameo in the NFL’s Super Bowl commercial this year.
On his progress towards graduation
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said Barkley had already contacted academic advisors about getting his Penn State degree prior to the football team’s Citrus Bowl appearance. The running back said he has just two courses left before he officially becomes a Penn State graduate.
“I had the opportunity to start classes this Monday,” Barkley said. “But with finals and camp going on at the same time, I’m probably going to pass on that and start up back in the fall.”
Barkley has stated the importance of getting his Penn State degree numerous times, and the fact that he’s willing to balance college coursework and an NFL career is really impressive.
On what Penn State means to him
Although his college football career ended in 2017, Saquon Barkley is still beloved in Happy Valley. The turnout of approximately 600 kids at today’s camp and the huge amount of No. 26 gear you’ll see people wear on any given day in State College are just two examples of the love Barkley receives from the Penn State community.
It’s safe to say that feeling is mutual between Barkley and Penn State. There’s a reason why the running back decided to host his first-ever event like this in Happy Valley.
“This is home for me,” Barkley said. “Whenever I come back here, people genuinely cared about me before I was ‘Saquon’ or whatever. I love coming back and seeing my former teammates and some of the new guys. This is where it all started — I feel like I shaped myself into becoming the player I am today here.”
Barkley crashed on Koa Farmer’s couch when he came to visit for Penn State’s pro day in March. He made sure his living arrangements were much more fit for the NFL’s rookie of the year the next night.
“I think I can afford a hotel now,” Barkley joked. “[Sleeping on Koa Farmer’s couch] kind of hurt my neck a little bit. The next day, I got a hotel. I was like, ‘what am I doing? Might as well get a hotel now.’ I tried to take the cheap way, but it caught up to me.”
There might be a lot of responsibilities that come with being an NFL star, but those pale in comparison to Saquon Barkley’s most important job: being a father.
Jada Claire Barkley is now one year old after being born just before the 2018 NFL Draft got started. Saturday was her first time visiting Penn State, and she got to spend some quality time with her dad when he took a break from assisting in the drills and games at camp.
“Fatherhood’s been treating me good. You learn and grow every day. As I continue to grow and become a better player, I try to grow and become a better father,” Barkley said. “It’s crazy to see my little girl grow up so fast. It puts everything in perspective about how quick last year went by. Seeing my daughter go from not being able to crawl to crawling, walking, and saying ‘dada’ and ‘mama’ — you cherish all those little moments.”
On the Philadelphia Eagles’ selection of Miles Sanders
Barkley was excited to see former teammate Miles Sanders get selected with the 53rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Philadelphia Eagles’ pick also set up two meetings per season between Penn State’s two most recent No. 1 running backs.
Based on a conversation the two had at Penn State’s pro day, Barkley wasn’t all that surprised by Philadelphia’s decision.
“When I came here for pro day, he said, ‘I think the Eagles are going to take me,'” Barkley recalled. “We kind of looked at each other and smiled. I said I want smoke, and he said he wants smoke. It’s awesome to be able to go up against him two times a year.”
A lot was made of Sanders’ two-season wait behind Barkley, but he was excellent in his first and only season as Penn State’s starter. He rushed for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 24 receptions for 139 yards in the passing game. Sanders’ excellent 2018 season and a strong offseason of workouts even led some to believe he would be a first-round pick.
“I’m more happy he accomplished that after being a five-star [recruit] and having to sit back and wait for his spot, his moment,” Barkley added. “When he got his moment, he took advantage of it. At the end of the day, we still got love, but when we see each other those two times, we’re going to try to compete.”
Though Barkley didn’t say anything about swapping jerseys with the Eagles’ new No. 26, don’t be surprised if the two Nittany Lions make that happen when their teams meet on December 9 in Philadelphia.
On being in the NFL’s Super Bowl commercial
The NFL’s official commercial for Super Bowl LIII celebrated the league’s 100-year anniversary, and Saquon Barkley was one of the countless NFL stars and legends featured in it.
Barkley was included in the commercial alongside the likes of NFL legends Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, and LaDainian Tomlinson, among others. Being in the commercial is an honor on its own, but the fact that Barkley was the last player featured in it was an entirely different story.
“I was just thankful to be asked to be in that commercial,” he said. “They showed me what I was doing and kind of broke it down that I was the one ending it and jumping into the future. That was another moment when I was like ‘wow, I’m really here, I’m in the NFL.’ To be the guy to finish the commercial and run off into the future meant the world to me.”
On the NCAA’s transfer portal
The NCAA’s transfer portal has been a huge story throughout the offseason — especially at Penn State. The Nittany Lions have had more players enter the portal than any other program in college football, and among the confirmed departures are quarterback Tommy Stevens and wide receiver Juwan Johnson.
To summarize how it works, student athletes can now begin the process of exploring a move away from their current university without their coach’s permission. Players who enter the portal can be contacted by other programs, but they don’t have to leave if they choose to enter the portal.
Barkley is supportive of giving student athletes more leeway and freedom when it comes to initiating the transfer process. However, he also made sure to note that players should only leave their original team if it’s truly the best move to make.
“I’m all for players’ rights, but you got to [transfer] the right way and leave for the right reasons,” Barkley said. “Sometimes, you come in and realize it’s not the school for you, or things play out and you get injured or some guys come out and just beat you. You got to take advantage of every opportunity given to you — that’s what I was taught here.”
On attending the Met Gala
Being an NFL star brings plenty of unique opportunities, including attending the Met Gala in New York City. If you don’t know exactly why celebrities gather and dress up in ridiculous outfits, the Met Gala is a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Barkley went skies out, thighs out for the event by rocking an all-black tuxedo with shorts instead of the standard long pants. Although his ‘fit was definitely on point, the running back said he was nervous for the event.”
“I was nervous for the Met [Gala],” Barkley said. “The red carpet was nerve-wracking. I took like four photos and then sprinted upstairs.”
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Is losing three recruits in less than a week weird? Absolutely. Should you be freaking out about the long-term health of Penn State’s ability to recruit?…Probably not.
Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider has been impressed by the little things Journey Brown has focused on throughout the offseason.
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