We met second-year running back Saquon Barkley at the Giants training facility in New Jersey. Saquon was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season. The Giants drafted him in the first round out of Penn State.
Why did you choose number 26?
It’s a number I had in college. I was told I would be 21. But someone else had it in college, and you can’t have two players with the same number. So, in college I was forced to 26. I decided to go with 26 with the Giants.
What was it like to move from the Bronx to Pennsylvania, and what’s it like to have five siblings?
I was so young that I hardly remember it. But I know it’s a sacrifice that my parents made, not only for me but for my other siblings. It definitely helped me with my life, just going to Pennsylvania and going to school in Pennsylvania. The education is a lot better out there than the inner cities. Now growing up with five siblings, I had an older brother and sister, and a younger brother and sister. Being the middle child you know, before my twin brother and sister kind of came, I was the spoiled one. I wasn’t really a fan of the twins coming. But it was fun. I learned a lot from them, especially my older brother and sisters.
How old were you when you started playing football?
I was 7. I was supposed to play flag football but my dad slipped me into tackle football. In my first practice, I broke a long run. I had a mouthpiece in when I was playing the game. Good thing I did because I got hit so hard, and my tooth came out.
What team did you admire when you were little?
I grew up being a Jets fan. When I used to come from Pennsylvania to New York to visit my family we used to always drive by MetLife and so a dream of mine was to play in the stadium. I visualized being in the green and white, but my other dream came true and I just happen to play for the Giants.
How do you remember all the plays in the play book?
It’s a big play book, but the coaches do a really good job, and you’ve got to do a good job paying attention. The coaches are there to help me out just in case I do happen to forget something. But that’s how you learn, by continuing to work. Continuing to improve your work ethic. You are always getting an education. You need to watch film, and when you make mistakes, ask questions and learn from those mistakes.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you? And what advice would you give to young football players?
My dad talked to me when I thought about quitting or giving up football. He told me once I quit one thing in life, you will be able to quit for the rest of your life. That kind of forced me to stay put with the sport I loved at the time and ended up playing for a career. I have the mindset that if I can’t get something done, I will work my butt off until I get it. If I still can’t get it done, at least I know that I worked my hardest and I got really close. The best advice I would give to kids is you could do whatever you want in life as long as you put your mind to it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Whatever you want to be, whether it’s a football player, whether it’s a scientist, doctor, the next president, whatever you dream, there’s no dream that’s too big. If you work for it, anything can happen.
You’ve won a lot of awards, which one means the most to you?
It would be the Big Ten Championship in college. One which was a team award. Winning Big 10 player of the year, winning Rookie of the Year award, they are all great, but at the end of the day, you can’t do it without your teammates. When you’ve got a team behind you, that often shows a lot of hard work that you put in practice and a lot of hard work that you put in all season. It just shows that it all came together.
How did you feel after your first touchdown against the Jaguars?
I was really excited. It was crucial point of game. They had a great defense over there. We needed a touchdown and I was able to make a play with the help of my teammates and shoved me into a great block on the sidelines to keep me open. It was a dream come true. When I got drafted here to the Giants, I used to sit there and just think about making big plays for the team. And always visualizing my first touchdown to be that way — a 60-yard run. It was truly awesome.
What is the biggest difference between college football and NFL?
Biggest difference I will say just the time. You have so much more time on your hands in the NFL than you have in college. In college, you’ve got classes. You’ve got study hall. Practice on top of that. Here, you’ve got practice and but you go home. You’ve got so much more time to work on your craft. Take a treatment on your body — to chill, relax. I have a daughter. Play with my family, play with my kid. And watch more film and continue to be better at play.
If you didn’t become a football player what would you have done for your career?
That’s a good question. What I want to do after football, I would say communications. That’s what I went to school for and that’s the first thing on the list. I love talking about sports. You can’t play football forever, but you could talk about it for very long time. I believe that if I continue the work ethic, and continue to be passionate about something I love, anything can happen for me. I think I will be successful in any career that I chose. I think I’m pretty sure right now if I had to pick right now, I would be an analyst.
Do you play Fortnite?
Yes, I do play Fortnite. [We shared screen names after our interview!]
What’s your favorite touchdown dance and can you show us?
I really don’t have one. When I get in the end zone, I’m not really that fun. I always taught when you score act like you’ve been there before, so give the ball to the ref. I’d be like in college sometimes when it was a big player, I would get excited like a little kid and I’d run around with my hands like this. That’s the best I can do.
Who do you like playing against more?
I like playing against the Chicago Bears. They have a really good defense, and we have a great defense. Khalil Mack is a great defensive player, and it's always a fun lineup against them. And we had a really close game last year, and we were able to come out with a win, and we also face them this year. So I love big challenges and I feel like, in my opinion, they’re if not the best defense in the league, one of the best.
You’re so young and so successful, what are your future goals for football and for life?
My future goal is football, win as many Super Bowl rings as I can. I would love to be an MVP and Walter Peyton Man of the Year. Those are probably the three biggest things. Obviously I want to break records and end up in the Hall of Fame. But I will continue to have the mindset to team first and continue to have the mindset to work on all those things. And play for me is the generational thing. I want to have enough money and make enough smart investments that my kids don’t have to worry. I don’t have to be put in a position where I’d be struggling and don’t have much. Also they could look at me as a role model, someone who had a dream and went to achieve it.
We know your dad was a boxer, have you ever tried boxing?
Yeah. I still do it here and there. I think it’s a good training method just for anybody, including athletes and people who don’t play sports. The last time I boxed, I was 13. I wasn’t trained for it. My dad sent me to the gym and threw me in the ring. In the first round I went in there and thinking I was like Muhammad Ali. I was getting the best of him. The second round, I still had it. I was getting the best of him. But by the third round, I was so tired, and my arms were so tired that I couldn’t hardly keep my hands up. And I was forced to keep my hands up. Basically, 100% loss in the third round. But it taught me a lesson that you can’t just step into anything without working on it.