Saquon Barkley: Once In A Lifetime Back

Adam Orozco, Writer ; Photographer

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Saquon Barkley, who is regarded as one of the best running back prospects coming out of college in the last ten years while playing for Penn State is ready for his shot in the NFL.

Many professional coaches and team scouts describe him as a freakish athlete with size, speed, agility, and natural ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is quite rare. Scouts and team managers study and fantasize about Barkley being a key player in their offense.

Saquon Barkley trains at the Tom Shaw Performance camp in Orlando, Florida, as he prepares for the biggest sports interviews of his life. They will take place at the NFL scouting combine Tuesday, February 27 through March 5. He will participate in most drills and events like the 40-yard-dash, vertical jump, multiple mental test and interviews from many team owners to decide if he’s the missing piece on offense.

As a prospect wanted by nearly every team in the league, the Barkley family knew he would be a star from a very early age. His dad remembers watching a New York Jets game from their home in Bronx, N.Y. with his son, and Saquon pointing at NFL running back Curtis Martin and saying, “When I grow up, I’m going to be No. 28.”

From pop warner football through his junior year at Penn St. University, Saquon has had a natural and rare talent with the football in his hands since a young age. He is most known for breaking off for long runs and hurdling defenders. He’s also an exceptional pass catcher, downhill runner, and kick returner.

Saquon Barkley was born in Bronx, New York, to Alibay Barkley and Tonya Johnson. In his youth, his father faced crime related problems and lengthy jail sentence, the mother moved the family to Pennsylvania to escape the violence and distractions of the big city atmosphere, and the father followed. The family relocated in several areas before settling into Coplay, Pennsylvania, where Saquon attended Whitehall High school.

Despite his successful youth football days, entering freshman year Barkley was around 160 pounds, timid, and unsure about his future in football. As he contemplated giving football up, his strict father urged him to ‘keep your word’ and work hard. As Barkley gave it a go, he quickly excelled rushing for 3,646 yards and 63 touchdowns his sophomore to senior year including 1,856 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior.

In early 2014, Barkley was considered a four-star recruit and one of the most explosive players in the country, He planned to head to Rutgers University on a football scholarship. Just hired Penn St. head coach James Franklin quickly targeted and recruited him, stealing the best running back in Pennsylvania on national signing day from Rutgers.

With tough decisions to make, Saquon and his family ultimately chose Penn State University, it ended up being “the best decision of his life,” Barkley stated.

As a freshman, he immediately got playing time at Penn State He made a difference on the offense, including rushing for 115 yards in week two and one touchdown. After a injury early in the season, Barkley came back to face #1 ranked Ohio State and dominated adding 194 yards on only 26 carries. He ended a good freshman campaign by totaling 1,076 yards and seven touchdowns. He also earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.

Mostly remembered by his performance during the 2017 Rose Bowl, his sophomore year was a one for the record books. He bailed out Penn State Football from many tough games, including during week two against rival Pittsburgh where Barkley scored five touchdowns in the second half to put the team within only three points. Also, against Minnesota University in overtime, Barkley ran a stunning 25 yard touchdown to end the game.

At the Rose Bowl, he took over the game by rushing for 194 yards on 25 carries including three total touchdowns including a touchdown in overtime to put the Nittany Lions up by one point, but came up short. Barkley rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in the 2016 season. He also got awards like BIG-Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Running Back of the Year.

Junior year was a success for Barkley as he was considered one of the best players in college and became a Heisman trophy candidate. He dominated on the field in all phases, including totaling 358 total purpose yards and versus the Iowa Hawkeyes which included setting the program record for most yards in a single game. He totaled 1903 yards with 21 touchdowns, 423 kick return yards with three touchdowns on the season. Barkley finished his career with 5038 total scrimmage yards and 51 touchdowns.

Through all the ups and downs in Barkley’s young life, there isn’t much to criticize Barkley as he has become a big part of the community. Coach Franklin stated, “He maintains good grades, is a popular player on community-service project, and was named to the team’s Leadership Council as a sophomore. He’s handled it probably better than any young player I’ve been around.”

The future seems bright for Saquon as he is just weeks away from interviews with NFL teams wanting to draft him.