Saquon Barkley Stepping Up as Leader On and Off Field

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley has garnered plenty of headlines and comments regarding his viral workout videos and weightlifting accomplishments. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has also been dubbed “Saquads,” a nickname former Giants teammate Odell Beckham Jr. loves and suggested Barkley embrace.

“I guess I’m well-known for working out,” Barkley said with a laugh.

So it’s no surprise when Barkley and the NFL teamed up to create a challenge for fans as part of the league’s 100th anniversary celebrations and “Experiences of a Lifetime” promotion, it involved a leg workout. Fans were tasked with completing “Saquon’s Quad Squad Quad Challenge” by posting videos online doing the one-minute physical challenge in the hopes of winning a workout with Barkley himself.

Abington Heights High School football players Griffin McGinley, Will Stevens, Casey Knott and Connor Dempsey traveled from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, to Giants training camp on August 25 for their physically taxing prize. The quad squad also received signed Giants memorabilia and tickets to a game.

“I’ve been following Saquon since his senior year at Whitehall High School and now that I’m actually meeting him is pretty cool,” McGinley said. “It’s inspirational because he came from a small town in Pennsylvania and to see him at such a high level is pretty cool.”

The one-minute Quad Challenge workout is comprised of 10-second lunges with each leg, 10 seconds of squats, 10 seconds of jump squats and 20 seconds of squat holds.

“It was a quick workout but it was tough,” Dempsey said. “I’d expect nothing else from him but it was all worth it, 100%.”

For Barkley, who set numerous lifting records at Penn State University including squatting 650 pounds, meeting and working out with fans is a lot of fun.

“When you’re able to put out a challenge and see so many people responding, it puts a smile on your face and shows you have an impact and you are a role model to these people,” Barkley said. “You also have to understand that with that role comes responsibility, so that’s why I try to handle myself like a pro on and off the field because I know there are a lot of eyes on me.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft certainly had plenty of eyes on him during his rookie campaign. The Giants opted to draft a running back rather than a potential quarterback of the future leaving pundits and fans scratching their heads, that is, until Barkley suited up for the first time.

The 5-foot-11, 233-pounder rushed for 1,307 yards and caught 91 passes for 721 yards with 15 total touchdowns (11 rushing) to edge Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

He became the third NFL rookie to eclipse 2,000+ scrimmage yards, set a league rookie running back record for receptions and tied for the NFL record of most games with 100+ scrimmage yards. Barkley set franchise records for rookie rushing yards, TDs, single-game receptions and most 100+ rushing yard games by a rookie.

Barkley has been challenged by the likes of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and countless others to continue to build off his debut season and live up to his potential.

“Who wants to be a one-hit wonder?” Sanders said at an NFL 100 kickoff event in New York City. “When you have potential Hall-of-Fame talent, why would you want to just have one good year and say ‘Back in the day I had one good year with the Giants.’ No, you want to be an all-time great if that’s the kind of potential you have. Hopefully he understands that.

“There’s so much he can do. There’s great football tradition in New York and people are expecting greatness and he has great talent. Hopefully he understands that every day as he goes into practice and games and we’ll get a chance to watch that over the next handful of years because that’s what we’re expecting out of him.”

Brady challenged Barkley when the two met for the first time at the Met Gala in New York City earlier this year. The six-time Super Bowl champion told Barkley it was great to do what he did for one season, but could he sustain it over five or 10 years? Barkley admitted he was so pumped up after that he was ready to “run through a brick wall” at the Met Gala.

How Barkley follows up his rookie season is still to be determined, but the hard-working running back is doing whatever he can to avoid any potential sophomore slumps while asserting himself as a leader on the Giants despite being just 22 years old. Barkley was named an offensive captain for the 2019 season along with Eli Manning and Nate Solder.

“Even though I got drafted high that didn’t mean anything, I had to go out there and produce,” Barkley said. “When I started producing I became more comfortable, more confident and became a little more vocal. I always have the same mindset of leading by example, but you have to become more vocal. That’s where I see myself leading more out here in practice, being more vocal, being competitive, but not just being competitive to myself, making sure we’re all competitive.

“Do I want to be an MVP? Yes. Do I want to win a Super Bowl? Yes. I understand to get to those things you have to come here every single day with the right mindset and get 1% better every single day and when your opportunity comes, make those plays and try to be the best player and leader you can for your team.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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