When a Hall of Famer tells you that you can be one of the greats, you better listen up. That’s what happened earlier this week when legendary running back Barry Sanders was speaking about New York Giants’ second-year star Saquon Barkley. And what Sanders likes about the Big Blue running back is something Barkley always needs on the field and already seems to have off of it.
The New York Giants played the Detroit Lions in last year’s preseason, which is when Barry Sanders first met Saquon Barkley, and this summer the two running backs met up again, with Sanders being asked how Barkley has changed over his first year in the NFL. “He hasn’t changed one bit, to tell you the truth, not at all. Saquon’s the same hungry kid, with the same humility he had the day I met him last summer. He’s got a lot to be proud of, and gosh, the kid came in and did a phenomenal job, and he’s got so much left in his game to grow. He balances things so well, and he just seems so prepared for all of this, you know what I mean? That’s why I really think he’s destined to be one of the greats.”
Sanders and Barkley were joined by two other Hall of Famers, Terrell Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson who all agreed that it was “only a matter of time” before the Giants’ 22-year-old becomes the NFL’s best running back. Last season, Barkley joined Eric Dickerson in 1983 and Edgerrin James in 1999 as the only players to amass over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in their rookie seasons.
It is that balance off the field that made it easier for the New York Giants to turn over their locker room to Saquon Barkley and be so willing to send wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. packing for the Cleveland Browns. Once the dark cloud that is the end of Eli Manning’s career leaves MetLife Stadium, Big Blue will become Barkley’s team; something that will make the team easier to root for and bring a level of maturity and professionalism that the New York Giants have not had for years.
Hitching their wagon to the star that is Saquon Barkley can only lead to good things for the New York Giants; and as Sanders pointed out, his record setting rookie season hasn’t gone to his head, a lesson that many other players in the NFL and other sports should take note of. Keeping his balance on the field is what makes Barkley a good running back; and keeping his balance off the field is what makes him a great person and running back, and someone who the New York Giants can build around for years to come.