For someone who is entering only his third year in the NFL, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is no stranger to change.
After his first year in the league, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. got traded to the Browns. Then, this past season, 16-year quarterback Eli Manning retired and Barkley also lost his head coach, offensive coordinator and running backs coach.
“It shows you that you can’t take anything for granted at any given time,” Barkley said.
Though Barkley knows the NFL is a results-based league, he told Bruce Murray, Bruce Gradkowski and Brady Quinn on SiriusXM NFL Radio Thursday from Miami that he tries to never forget the childhood passion that started his love for football.
“I’m trying to stay focused on being that kid when I was eight years old and I was just out there having fun.”
Barkley has also used each change as a learning opportunity. He said that the biggest lesson he will take away from Manning is his work ethic.
“There’s a reason he was the two-time Super Bowl MVP, ” Barkley said. “No matter what, that guy is going to come in and be the same guy every single day. You can’t be a rollercoaster. You have to be that guy no matter what the case is.”
That focus on work ethic helped power Barkley through a 2019 season that was complicated with a high ankle injury. Despite missing three weeks, Barkley still finished with 1,003 rushing yards - marking the second straight season he has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.
“It was not so much getting the 1,000 yards as it was showing myself that I’ve got to persevere, fight through it,” Barkley said. “I fought through the injury and probably a lot of people wouldn’t have thought I’d get 1,000 yards, especially with the way the season was going. But that showed me, like Eli, no matter what you have to come in every single day with the right mindset. And I think the adversity I had this year is going to help me become the player I want to be.”
In his pursuit to be the best running back he can be, Barkley said that he is going to go to Penn State in the offseason to continue to learn about the game and understand it from a different perspective.
“I tell myself that I’m going to be the best running back every day,” Barkley said. “I can’t just say that. I have to go doing something about it.”
New head coach Joe Judge surely echoes Barkley’s emphasis on making improvements. Barkley said that he has talked to Judge over the phone and met him in person alongside quarterback Daniel Jones.
“The thing I love about him, you look in his eye and he’s all about business,” Barkley said. “You can tell he’s ready to go. he’s fired up. He got me fired up.”
“I wish it was July already,” Barkley added.