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Saquon Barkley voted one of the Giants' team captains, and he's only 22

Giants running back Saquon Barkley on the field

Giants running back Saquon Barkley on the field during pregame warmups at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 16. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Most people already recognize that Saquon Barkley is the best and most important player on the Giants’ roster. He is the centerpiece of the offense, the cornerstone of the future, and the tentpole for the organization. Whatever the Giants achieve this season and in the future likely will come on the back of his accomplishments.

This week, the Giants made that designation official.

Barkley was named one of seven team captains in voting conducted by the players on Monday. What makes his election remarkable, though, is how quickly it was bestowed upon him. The other six players have an average age of 32.5 and 10.83 seasons of experience. They’ve all been captains before, either with the Giants or another team. Barkley is just 22 and has played only one year in the NFL.

Yet he has become the face, voice, quadriceps, conscience (if there is a body part or ethereal element, name it) of the organization. Pat Shurmur has described Barkley in the past as having “a generational spirit.”

Now that spirit will have a C on his chest.

“He’s mature beyond his years, and that’s why I think he got voted as a captain,” wide receiver Bennie Fowler said. “He leads by example and he’s also vocal. That’s what captains display.”

Fowler would know. He’s been around a number of them, from Peyton Manning and Von Miller with the Broncos to Eli Manning and Nate Solder here with the Giants. Barkley is the first captain he’s had who has less NFL experience than he has, but that hardly seems to matter.

“When things go wrong, even with themselves, they pick the team up and they pick themselves up,” he said of what a captain should be. “The way they go about their business on and off the field.”

That’s what he and plenty of others see in Barkley.

“His play speaks for itself,” said 13-year veteran Antoine Bethea, who was voted as one of the defensive captains. “For his peers to vote him in his second year speaks volumes on what this team thinks of him and how he carries himself.”

Asked what it means to him to be named captain, Barkley said: “Everything.”

“It’s awesome to be the captain for my team, especially being a young player in my second year,” Barkley said. “At the end of the day, captain or not, it wasn’t going to change. Just because I have a C on my chest doesn’t mean I’m going to act out of myself.”

Barkley said he was surprised by the honor. It was something he aspired toward yet did not necessarily seek this season. He said he understood that his age and lack of experience made him an unorthodox choice.

But he also said he thinks a captain is “someone you can hold accountable, someone they know is going to hold up the standard.”

That’s Barkley.

Which is why he was reticent to even talk about his new title.

“The message I’m going to keep saying in these interviews or in this locker room is: Team, team, team and team, team, team,” he said. “That’s what it’s going to take. People who continue to believe in each other, believe in the team, believe in the system, believe in what we have here, the sky could be the limit for us.”

If that was his stump speech, it’s no wonder he was elected.

Giants captains / Age / NFL Exp.

Eli Manning        38    16

Nate Solder        31    9

Antoine Bethea        35    14

Alec Ogletree        27    7

Zak DeOssie        35    13

Michael Thomas    29    6

Saquon Barkley        22    2

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