The National Football League entertains millions of fans across the globe. We are all familiar with the league's ultra-talented superstars as we see them in TV commercials, movies and on the playing field. But, who exactly are the men behind the facemask? Why do they choose to play a game that can seriously damage their bodies? What hardships have these larger-than-life superstars had to face on their way to stardom? These are valid questions that many sports enthusiasts want to know about their gridiron heroes. Today, we are going to examine one of the emerging stars in the National Football League, Saquon Barkley.
Saquon Barkley is one of the biggest rising stars in sports that many still have not heard of.. yet. With his incredible agility and brute strength, Barkley is a tackler's worst nightmare. Some football experts believe he already has Hall of Fame potential. In fact, most experts were surprised that the Giants drafted the 6 foot, 233lb star running back from Penn State. Most believed the Giants would select one of the top quarterbacks on the board based on the notion that current Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, 37, is entering the twilight of his career. The Giants, however, defied logic and selected Barkley, second overall pick, in the 2018 NFL Draft. But, who exactly is Saquon Barkley? Where does his story begin?
Origins of a Superstar
Saquon Barkley was born on February 7, 1997, in the Bronx, New York. His father, Alibay, was a well-known amateur boxer during Saquon's childhood. His fighting career ended after suffering a shoulder injury, but Alibay continued to teach the sport he loved, even though he could no longer fight. Saquon, in fact, thought he would grow up to be a boxer just like his dad. Saquon Barkley is also the nephew of three-time world champion boxer Iran Barkley. Iran Barkley is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.
Change of Scenery
Alibay Barkley had made some poor decisions in his teenage years that eventually landed him in prison. After serving his time, Alibay soon found himself with the responsibilities that come with providing for his children. Alibay wanted a better life for his children, and he realized a change of scenery was needed. The Bronx wasn't the greatest environment for his young family to grow up in at the time, so Alibay made the decision to move them from the crime-plagued Bronx to a safer suburban neighborhood in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration from Greatness
When Saquon Barkley was growing up in the Bronx, he would often watch New York Jets football games on television with his father. Saquon, only a toddler at the time, remembers idolizing Jets running back, Curtis Martin. Martin is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, and he made a grand impression on the young Saquon Barkley. Saquon knew then that he wanted to be a running back in the NFL. Saquon Barkley's father was also a huge influence on his son's future success. Alibay Barkley instilled a will in his children to never give up, no matter the circumstance. This influence would prove to be valuable later on in Saquon's life. Saquon would face adversity, as well as triumphs, on the way to the National Football League.
Saquon Barkley: Football Journey
At the age of eight, Saquon Barkley was already the star running back for his Hokendauqua's youth football team. He scored 15 touchdowns in one season and was already catching the eye of football coaches across the area, but there were questions concerning his size and his ability to play the game at a high school level.
High School Years
Saquon Barkley attended Whitehall High School in Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania. A timid, shy Barkley entered his freshman year only 160 pounds. He struggled in the weight room and even considered quitting playing football altogether. His father, Alibay, instilled a drive in all of his children to never quit, no matter the circumstance. He urged Saquon to stick with football for one more season. He listened to his father's advice and went on to great success at Whitehall. From his sophomore season to his final game as a senior, Saquon Barkley rushed for 3,646 yards and scored a total of 63 touchdowns. It seemed almost certain Barkley would play Division I college football.
Saquon Barkley's original intention was to play college football at Rutgers University. He attended a football camp there and received a scholarship offer from the head football coach, Kyle Flood. When James Franklin was hired as Penn State's head coach in 2014, he immediately began recruiting Barkley. Saquon began to have doubts about Rutgers. His father reminded him that he had given Rutgers his word, but coach Franklin's pitch had a great effect on him. Saquon eventually de-committed from Rutgers and signed with Penn State in February 2014.
Barkley found immediate success as a true freshman running back at Penn State. He ran for over 1,000 yards and earned enough votes to be selected to the All-Big 10 second team. He even received some first-place votes, which is almost unheard of as a freshman. In his sophomore campaign, Saquon Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards and was voted Big-10 offensive player of the year.
Saquon's junior year, his final year at Penn State, Barkley began to be heavily noticed by NFL scouts and declared his intentions to enter the NFL Draft at the end of the season. Barkley left Penn State as one of the most decorated running backs the school has ever produced.
A Dream Comes True
Projected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Barkley had to first prove himself in workouts. Once NFL teams saw how talented he was in person, Barkley's stock began to rise even higher. In April, the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Giants were heavily criticized for not selecting the successor to Eli Manning, with so many highly touted quarterback prospects available with the second pick in the draft. Despite the nay-sayers, the Giants firmly believe they chose the right guy, and Barkley's play so far in his rookie season looks to be proving the Giants management correct on their assessment. Barkley signed a 4-year, 32 million dollar contract featuring a 20 million dollar signing bonus. The hard work put in by Saquon and Alibay had put in over the years had finally paid off. The dream had come true for Saquon Barkley.
Today's NFL Running Back
In today's NFL, the running back position has changed quite dramatically. Long gone are the days of the lone "bell-cow" running back. In years past, teams would rely on a feature running back to handle most of the load. It was and still is quite common for NFL running backs to have a short shelf-life in the league. Running backs absorb a lot of contact due to the physical nature of the position. In today's NFL, however, teams have shared the wealth in the backfield in hopes of extending the shelf-life of their more talented backs. This is called the "running back by committee" or "time share" approach. This has led to running backs slipping farther down the draft boards simply because their overall value has diminished due to the "time share" approach of the modern-day NFL running game.
Defying the Odds?
Considering what we now know about today's NFL running back, Saquon Barkley is an enigma of sorts. The Giants seem keen on giving the young rookie as many carries as he can handle, and it seems Barkley can handle the load, so far. Saquon Barkley has an intense work ethic and is constantly maintaining the health of his body. The once scrawny, timid high school freshman is now a physical specimen deflecting would-be tacklers as he heads for the end-zone. Despite the current nature of the running back position, it seems Saquon Barkley is destined for stardom. He has exploded onto the scene and is living up to the pre-draft hype. The way Saquon Barkley plays the game is an art-form within itself. Many football fans across the world look forward to seeing Saquon Barkley do what he does for many years to come.
The Sky Is the Limit
Saquon Barkley possesses an immense amount of talent that only comes around once not so very often. Running backs are rarely chosen in the first round of the draft, let alone selected in the top five. The young rookie has the weight of an entire NFL franchise on his back. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Barkley and the New York Giants. Despite the Giants lack of wins this season, Barkley has been a bright spot in what is considered a disappointing season for the team. Saquon Barkley has a great chance to be the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2018. The sky is the limit for Saquon Barkley, and the story is just beginning.