ATLANTA — Saquon Barkley may be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday night, but in his mind, his first lap through the NFL is over. The Giants haven’t played in a month and the running back already is focusing more on Year 2 than on what he accomplished this past season.
“Now I am just thinking how can I improve on that and build on that?” he said this week. “How can I help translate that into more wins for the team? All of those things were great, but now I just have to elevate my game to another level.”
He said 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman recently asked him what his goals are.
“Elevate my game,” Barkley told him.
Sherman told him that’s all well and good but that he should try to elevate everyone else’s game at the same time. That’s the true mark of an impact player.
“That stuck with me and made so much sense,” Barkley said. “I want to grow more as a leader. When you are there, it is not just about elevating yourself. Obviously, you want to elevate your game and take it to another level, but you want to elevate the people around you and challenge them at the same time. That builds great team and chemistry to win games.”
He also wants to elevate the impact he has off the field. On Friday morning, he was in Atlanta along with Feed the Homeless delivering 100,000 bowls of Campbell’s Chunky Soup to the Crossroads Communities Ministries. It’s an early step toward an award he won’t win this year but wants to win in the future.
“Continue to get more involved,” Barkley said of his reasons for pitching in. “Obviously, it is hard your first year because you are just trying to figure everything out. Now I have a gist of how an NFL year is and what it is about. I want to be more active with stuff like this. Giving back and visiting schools, visiting people and starting up my own foundation. I want to win the Rookie of the Year award. I want to win a ring and an MVP, but I also want to win the Man of the Year one day.”
Most assume the Rookie of the Year award will come down to Barkley and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Barkley was named the Pepsi Rookie of the Year on Thursday, an award based on fan voting.
Barkley finished second in the league in rushing with 1,307 yards. He also had 91 receptions, which broke the record for a rookie running back, and was only the third rookie running back to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season. The other two were Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James. Barkley also scored 15 touchdowns.
“I’m just going in there trying to have a good time,” he said of the NFL honors show in which he may or may not be, well, honored. “It will be a new experience for me. It will be my first award show. I get to do all the dressing up and walk the red carpet and whatnot. Have my mom and family there. It will just be cool being surrounded by a lot of talented players and familiar faces that I have seen, whether it be in Combine training, hanging out or working out. It will be fun to be with them and at the end of the day represent myself and the New York Giants, whether I win the award or not.”