LOS ANGELES – It’s impossible not to notice the giant “QUADS” chain around Saquon Barkley’s neck. It’s almost as impossible to ignore the giant smile Barkley breaks into at any given moment. The chain was a bet paid in full by Baker Mayfield after Saquon won Rookie of the Year by posting more than 1,300 rushing yards, catching 91 passes, and scoring 11 touchdowns. The smile is just part of who Barkley is, and has followed him from New York, to Pennsylvania, to Penn State, and back to New York, as he’s become a new hope for the Giants and their rebuild.
Barkley exudes joy, and his philosophy on football seems to boil down to “can you believe I get to do this for a living?” It’s no wonder he is so beloved by Nittany Lions fans, and is quickly becoming a favorite in New York and among Giants faithful, even if he grew up a Jets fan as a kid. There’s a burst of energy when Barkley has the ball — on a kickoff, coming out of the backfield, on a screen or wheel route — that feels like inspiration hitting in real time; an audible exhale as the play unfolds with a chance, every time, that this one might turn into magic.
Few players in the league possess that, and the ones who do go beyond recognizable star quality into something more, something mythic.
Barkley knows full well he’s earned what he’s gotten, but he’s lucky those quads (and the rest of him) get to be put to good use on the football field. He saw it play out over the course of week in July, which found him winning an ESPY, debuting an emotional “My Wish” video, and recording a national “Champions Of Chunky” commercial spot for Campbell’s at the home field for MLS side Los Angeles Football Club. The bright lights suit him, and allow that wide smile to get even bigger.
UPROXX spoke with Barkley about what Penn State means to him, wanting to be on the cover of Madden, and potentially challenging Rajon Rondo to see who really is the best at “Connect Four” someday.
Martin Rickman: The last seven days for you must’ve been crazy between the ESPYs, and the Make a Wish video coming out, to this. What’s your mindset been through all that — start with ESPY, what kind of an honor is that for you?
Saquon Barkley: It’s amazing to win Breakthrough Athlete of the Year up against great talent with Trae [Young] and Naomi [Osaka] and [Christian] Yelich, but to be able to take an ESPY home, it’s something that you dream about as a kid and to accomplish that in your first year, it’s truly amazing. And then the Make a Wish experience that happened during mini camp, for that to come out, I think they did a really good job with that video. The biggest thing is — take away the video — I was just somebody’s wish. I think that’s when you got to put things in perspective, like wow, football is an amazing sport, but it brings you so much more from it.