Saquon Barkley entered Penn State’s football program as a former Rutgers commit. At that point in time, Penn State was still recovering from the harsh sanctions placed on them following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The year before, PSU returned to the postseason for the first time following the sanctions, besting Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl in a 31-30 victory. 7-6 records were not something the school was used to. Following the end of the Paterno Era, Penn State never suffered a losing season, but they were nothing like days in the past.
Enter, Saquon Barkley.
Graded between a three to four star recruit, he was not hailed as the great running back he would soon become. In his first season, he notched over 1,000 yards with 7 touchdowns to accompany his numbers. Following a devastating Taxslayer Bowl defeat at the hands of Georgia, Penn State’s return to glory was just over the horizon.
The next season, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the sanctioned Penn State was seemingly at the top of the football world. A slow 2-2 start shotgunned an incredible run, with Penn State winning every regular season game during the 2016 season. Head coach James Franklin, quarterback Trace McSorley, and our newest hero Saquon Barkley had caused an explosion in college football. Following the incredible 24-21 victory over Ohio State in a Whited Out Beaver Stadium, Penn State never looked back. Barkley entered the Heisman conversation late. Even with a below average offensive line, Saquon just found ways to get things done. He even brought home a Big Ten Championship in what may be considered one of the greatest Penn State seasons in history.
2017 was the beginning of the end. The front runner early on, Saquon Barkley really proved that he could do whatever he was asked to. His Heisman campaign may have fell short, but there is a reason that Saquon is often cited as the best player going into the 2018 NFL Draft. 1,271 rushing yards with 18 rushing touchdowns. 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns. 423 yards on kickoffs with two taken to the house. He even passed a couple of times, completing both of his passing attempts for 36 yards and a touchdown. Barkley was the face of Penn State.
— Saquon Barkley (@saquon) April 26, 2018
Students and fans alike could see him as a hero. A running back that came to a struggling program and brought it up from what should have been a death sentence. From his hurdles to his jukes, and those huge runs in the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. By the end of the night on April 26th, our former number 26 will have heard his name called. Some lucky NFL team will have found a running back that should dominate the league for years to come.
It was truly a privilege watching Barkley break ankles in Blue and White every Saturday, but college does not last forever. He might lack a Heisman, but Saquon Barkley will forever be a legend in Happy Valley.
Thank you, Saquon Barkley.