Saquon Barkley said posing for ESPN the Magazine’s Body issue gave him an appreciation for what professional models do. He said it was something he might well try again himself.
Except . . .
“This will probably be my last naked one,” he said, smiling. “I think I put myself out there enough.”
Barkley, the Giants’ rookie running back, spoke Thursday night at an event to promote the 10th edition of the Body issue, joining golfer Greg Norman, hurdler Lolo Jones and figure skater Adam Rippon, who are present and past subjects.
This was shortly after an appearance at CC Sabathia’s celebrity softball game at Yankee Stadium, the latest experiences in a whirlwind offseason leading up to his first NFL training camp.
He seems to be navigating the journey smoothly, but he said he is keeping his eye on the bigger picture.
“When you do stuff like this, you have to live in the moment but also understand what your job is, what your purpose is on the team,” he said. “That’s how I handle it. Knock out the noise and not focus on distractions.”
Appearing naked on the cover of a national sports magazine might not be a distraction, but it has generated noise, including from teammates who on one hand admired what he did and on the other set limits.
“It was along the lines of fun and saying, ‘Good job,’ and I got great compliments saying it came out great,” he said. “But I put one on Instagram and a couple of my teammates were like, ‘Listen, love you but I can’t like this photo.’ ”
Barkley, 21, is so young that he grew up with the Body issue and had aspired to be in it before he retired from football. He ended up being selected before he even had an NFL team. The shoot was before the draft.
Speaking of drafts, as proud of his body as Barkley is, the photo session itself took some getting used to.
“If you ask me: ‘So, did they cover you up, or are you actually, fully naked?’ You’re fully, fully naked,” he said. “It takes a little while to loosen up. You’re doing football moves and it’s like, uh, I’m really naked right now. At the end of the whole shoot, I was running around. I was so comfortable, like, why don’t we play a game right now?”
Barkley credited the photo staff for putting him at ease, and for coming up with a cover shot of him in full smile that he called “an accident” in which he was having fun and reacting naturally.
“It is like art,” he said. “It’s beautiful . . . She caught it at the perfect time and you have to respect it.”
Barkley said he was most impressed by the images of Norman, who at 63 is three times Barkley’s age. Asked if he hopes to look that way when he is older, Barkley said, “That’s the goal, right? . . . He’s ripped.”
Norman said he always has been fit and comfortable in his own skin — he sometimes works out and practices golf naked — so the Body issue was a natural.
“To me, age is just a number, so I don’t see myself changing or backing off,” he said. “If I give inspiration to others to do it, fantastic.”
Norman is a supporter of Donald Trump, who praised him on Twitter for how good he looks in the magazine after Norman appeared on Fox News. “I didn’t expect a shout-out like that, but it was pretty cool,” Norman said.
Jones appeared in the first Body issue in 2009, when it was a more radical, less familiar idea than it has become. Breaking the news to her family took some doing.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” she said. “It was a very hard notion for me to have my parents and pastor come on board with this concept.”
The origins of the issue and footage from past shoots — especially the memorable one of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in 2012 — will be covered in a documentary on ESPN on July 5.
Long Islanders Crystal Dunn and Sue Bird also are among the cover subjects this year.
While Jones discussed overcoming insecurities about her body, and most of the athletes Thursday spoke about the importance of proper nutrition, Barkley said he loves his body — especially his legs — and pretty much eats what he wants.
Up until now, anyway. “I’m adding a lot more greens and protein,” he said. “I’m still 21. I want to figure it out by 22.”