Saquon Barkley #26 of the Giants looks on during the...

Saquon Barkley #26 of the Giants looks on during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Jim McIsaac

For the second year in a row, Saquon Barkley has been nominated as the Giants’ choice for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Barkley doesn’t take such achievements for granted.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s an honor. [To be] one of 32 men in the NFL to get nominated for that award, it’s truly a blessing.”

The award speaks to the role Barkley plays in the Giants' organization. He is easily their most recognizable and celebrated current player, but he is not just a running back.

“He’s a captain," general manager Joe Schoen said. "He comes to work every day. He does everything we ask. He's a great teammate.

"As you're going through adversity, I think he's a big part of keeping the locker room together. I respect Saquon a lot and the way he handles himself.”

For Barkley, the pull to help others predated his time with the Giants.

After he was drafted second overall in 2018, Barkley and his parents gravitated to the Newark, New Jersey-based Covenant House, which had a personal connection.

“I’ve been homeless before,” Barkley said. “I was probably 6 or 7 and we got evicted. I bounced around. Having the support of family and friends helped us, and that got us back on our feet. Seeing what Covenant House does, that’s where the relationship happened.”

Barkley has helped raise $7 million in critical funds for Covenant House in the last five years.

 Said Barkley: “Being a running back, being a fan of the history of the game, learning about [Hall of Fame running back] Walter Payton, knowing his legacy on the field and off the field, and getting to spend time with some of the Payton family last year because I was nominated. Like I said, it’s truly an honor and it’s a good thing.”

On the field, Barkley has amassed 4,946 career rushing yards and needs 54 to become the fifth player to reach 5,000 in a Giants uniform. Brandon Jacobs is fourth on the franchise's career list with 5,087 yards, Joe Morris is third (5,296), Rodney Hampton is second (6,897) and Tiki Barber is first (10,449).

On Monday night, Barkley and the Giants (4-8) will face the Packers at MetLife Stadium. The Giants' postseason chances are slim, and a loss to the Packers might deliver the knockout punch.

Coach Brian Daboll chose undrafted rookie (and New Jersey native) Tommy DeVito as the Giants' starter over 13-year veteran Tyrod Taylor.

With Daniel Jones on injured reserve, Taylor essentially lost his job when he suffered injuries to his ribs in the loss to the Jets on Oct. 29. Taylor said he had four broken ribs and two were displaced. He wasn’t cleared to practice until last week.

“I guess it’s kind of like the talk of the town right now with the decision to go with Tommy over Tyrod,” Barkley said. “I think Tyrod is handling it well, being a professional, kind of like we knew he was going to be.

“Both of the guys have got nothing but confidence [from] everyone on the team. Whether they went with Tommy or went with Tyrod, we’re just trying to keep the main thing the main thing. Like I said, we’ve got confidence in both of them, and they made the decision to go with Tommy. Now our focus is on Green Bay.”

The Giants' focus also needs to be on scoring points. They have tallied just 159 this season and are averaging 13.3 per game, which ranks 29th in the league. Every other team in their division has scored at least 100 more than that.

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