So, a reporter asked New York Giants first round pick Saquon Barkley, what is it like to be a Giant?
“It’s amazing,” he answered.
“It finally hit me,” Barkley continued. “It really didn’t hit me after I got drafted, but being able to walk into this building, going on a tour, seeing the facility and being back with football people, my teammates and players and to start building that relationship, it is an honor to play for this franchise. Right when you walk in the building, you see the four Lombardi Trophies and you already know what the standard is for this team and this program. I am just happy to be a part of it.”
It’s only fitting that Barkley’s was the first press conference after new head coach Pat Shurmur’s. With Hall of Fame expectations heaped upon him, what does the second overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft want to show the Giants?
“Just that I am a hard worker,” Barkley said. “That I am willing to learn and that I am coachable.”
Of course, the Giants are not Penn State.
Now that he is in the NFL, Barkley will have to learn a new offense and style of football.
“Obviously, the difference is the playbook,” he said when asked what the biggest difference was between the Giants and Penn State. “Definitely the playbook and the system. Going out and always being in the gun in college and working out of the ‘I’, which I feel very comfortable doing. That is the difference. It is a different feel and it is obviously the system. At the end of the day, it is football. It is just like we are freshmen all over again. I keep telling those guys that we are starting stuff all over, but we are going to get the system and the playbook down. Just take it day-by-day and step-by-step. I am learning stuff everyday”
And how is that learning process going? So far so good, according to Barkley.
He said, “I think personally, I learn really quick. A lot of things are different I guess you could say, but we ran a lot of similar stuff in college except it had different terminology. Instead of running out of the gun all the time, they run out of the ‘I’. That is really the biggest difference in terminology. It is harder to learn by yourself. I had the playbook before and was looking over it and it is hard to learn there. It is easier to learn when coach Johnson is in front and he is telling you this and this. This is why we do this and this is why we do that. It starts to come to you quicker. The best way to learn is actually doing it on the field.”
This weekend serves as a try-out period for a number of players chasing their dream. Barkley, however, is assured a spot on the Giants’ roster. As a sure starter he will have to get to know the veterans on the team, a process he has already started.
“I got to talk to Eli [Eli Manning],” Barkley said. “I talked to him over the phone. When I was looking for apartments, Davis [Davis Webb] drove by where I was at. Odell [Odell Beckham Jr.], obviously. I know Odell personally. I did not get to meet Jonathan Stewart yet. I am just looking forward to meeting the rest of those guys. Obviously they were here yesterday, but we had physicals and stuff to do. I look forward to meeting those guys and picking their brain. I look forward to meeting guys that have won championships and guys that have gone through struggles, ups and downs. Guys who are veterans in the NFL and great pros. I just look forward to continue to learn from them and follow them by example, learn, continue to grow and help myself develop as a player.”
Barkley has already gotten advice on what to do as an NFL player. Advice he says he got from new teammates, players on other teams, and Hall of Fame players, as well as his own parents. And it’s pretty sound advice:
“Stay true to yourself,” he said. “You are here for a reason. What got you here is going to continue to help, but obviously, continue to grow in those areas, your game and work ethic. Be disciplined and be coachable. Be passionate about the game. That is the best I’ve gotten. Not only from my teammates here but from everyone. Stay true to yourself and be yourself.”
It’s already been mentioned a few times, but the expecations for Barkley, both based on where he was drafted and what his is capable of as an athlete, are lofty. Dave Gettleman has said that he believes the Giants drafted a future Hall of Fame player who has been “touched by the hand of God.” It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by others around the organization and in the media. Barkley himself, however, isn’t having it. “I don’t see them,” he said. “I know a lot of people try and set expectations for me.”
He added, “No offense to you guys, but I set my own expectations. I don’t care what anyone says in terms of that I have to rush for this or score this. It does not matter to me. I set my own expectations and have my own standards. If I follow you guys, not saying you guys but the media, and try and reach expectations of the fans and the media because I am a high draft pick, if I follow that, I will never become a great player. It starts with myself. I have to believe in myself, set goals for myself, set expectations for myself and continue to work for those goals every single day.
Right now, it is just to continue to come in, be humble. I don’t want to be that guy that thinks he is a high draft pick and that he has it all. Nothing is given to you. Everything is earned. You have to have that mindset that you have to work every single day. Learn every single day. Be a student of the day, learn from the guys and the coaches. The Eli’s and the Odell’s on the field and off the field. Just work. Hard work got me here. Obviously, you know me from back home where I started. Just have to continue to work my butt off. Obviously be a pro. Be a veteran pro at a young age. That is the approach I want to take. Have the mindset that I have been in the league for four or five years. That is the advice I got from a lot of teammates and other players. A lot of people say that it hit them in the fourth year or it hit them in the fifth year. I don’t want it to hit me then, I want that to hit me now. I just want to take care of myself and take care of my body. Everything else will take care of itself.”
The selection of Barkley with the second overall pick in the draft proved to be a controversial decision. After all, it was argued, good running backs can be found later in the draft. Barkley contends, however, that he is much more than just a running back. He says that he wants to be a complete player and will be whatever the team needs him to be.
“More than a running back,” he said. “Completely more than a running back. That is why when people try and put the ‘why should a running back go that high?’ Obviously, you look at the past three years and the position of the running backs and what the Zeke’s and the Le’Veon’s have been able to do, they are more than a running back. I look at myself as more than a running back. I am not a guy that just lines up in the back field and is going to bang his head, bang his head, bang his head. I am a guy that is willing to do anything for his team. Whether it be a kick returner or a punt returner, running down on kickoffs, lining up in the slot, running a dummy play or a fake play, whatever it takes. I want to be an athlete, not just a running back. Obviously, I play the running back position but I want to be an all-around guy and an all-around player.”