Saquon Barkley knew he wanted to be selected by the New York Giants when he got a tour of their headquarters before the draft.
“You really never know where you are going to go. Obviously, you see all the reports on social media and everything, but personally, on my visit here, I kind of fell in love with this place,” Barkley said. “Obviously, I came from Penn State and the reason why I chose Penn State is the history and tradition there, and the networking, obviously. But with the football side, you walk in this building, the first thing you see is four Lombardi Trophies. And right then and there, it shows this place and the standard. And as a football player, you’ve got to love that.
“It’s the ideal situation for me and my family, staying close to home, coming back home. I was born in New York and being able to play for the New York Giants, it’s amazing and it’s truly an honor.”
Barkley has already been anointed by some as the face of the franchise, Eli Masnning and Odell Beckham Jr. not withstanding. He isn’t claiming that lofty position for himself.
“I think the face of a franchise is kind of how you take it. I know that’s been said about me and that’s been said about me in college at Penn State. But I think it’s kind of how you view it. I really never view myself as that. If that comes along with the things that I’m doing, then so be it,” Barkley said. “But the way that I kind of handle that is just continue to stay focused on the sport and continue to stay focused on football and focus on my family and the things that get you there.
“But the face of the franchise, when you have success, that tag comes along [with it]. That’s kind of how I view it. The more success you have, the more attention and the more spotlight comes to your name and they kind of tag you with that. But that’s not something that I’m really looking forward to being. If that happens, God willing, I have a lot of success and that comes with the territory, then so be it. But the thing I’m focused on right now is just really coming in as a rookie and getting the playbook, learning the playbook, learn from the older guys, learn how to lead at a young age. That’s something that’s a challenge for me and I know I’ve been challenged by the coaches here, that I look forward to. And to continue to get ready every single day and to get better every single day.”
Barkley is in New York. He is already a star. There will be distractions at every turn, people wanting a piece of him or a few minutes of his time. There will be chances to do the wrong thing. He knows he needs to stay focused on football.
“The first thing with the way you handle that, that situation, is your circle. Keep your circle small and keep your circle tight and realize the people that were with you along the way that got you to this point. And right now, that’s my family. My family, my brothers and sisters, my mother and father and my kid on the way – not on the way, it’s here now [laughs]. I’m so used to saying on the way. But my family, keep my family close,” Barkley said. “And keep my team, my management, my management company and my agency/marketing company, ROC NATION and GoldPoint. Continue to have a strong approach, but understand that the most important thing is football. At the end of the day, you’ve got to take care of that and all the other stuff is just distractions. And if it becomes a distraction, I won’t do it. You can ask my agent, you can ask my marketing guy, when it comes to the media, if it has anything to do with distracting me from training or football, I just wouldn’t do it. I had been approached a lot during the NFL Combine and during the NFL Combine and prepping and all that, and I denied a lot. But the main thing is keep your circle tight, keep a great team, which I believe I have and I know I have and continue to stay focused on football.”
Barkley knows there are also already extremely high on-field expectations.
“The expectations I view as a challenge and you have to be willing to rise up to the challenge and that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to my whole life, in high school and college and certainly now with the statements that Dave (Gettleman) and Coach (Shurmur) made about me and the pick does kind of solidify the mindset of the team and I love that,” Barkley said. “I think this team is definitely built to win now. They were a great team last year, I know their record doesn’t speak for that, but injuries are part of football, they happen and a lot of things didn’t go their way in a lot of games.
“I just feel like I can hopefully and God willingly if I have to sit back in college and continue that motivation and that passion and work ethic at a young age, then I can come in here and bring a new dimension to the game, to the run game and to be able to have that pressure to demand that attention that can open up other things and kind of be like a pick your poison spot on the offense, and when you have a good offense you have a good defense and when you have a good defense you have a good offense and special teams, all of the above.”
The Saquon Barkley era is here, and off to a good start.