Column: Barkley all class, on and off the field

UNIVERSITY PARK – Saquon Barkley didn’t get an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York this weekend.

Finalists for the prestigious award were announced on Monday night. They are: Quarterback Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), quarterback Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and running back Bryce Love (Stanford).

When Penn State started the season undefeated, many of the experts believed that Barkley would run away with the Heisman, but a couple of losses and some pedestrian performances pushed Barkley down the list and eventually out of the running.

We aren’t here to critique the selection of finalists. He simply didn’t get the votes.

But if you think that fazed Barkley, think again.

“I’m not really worried about the individual awards. I don’t need a trophy to define me or to define how I play,” Barkley said. “I think I’ve done enough and I think that I have the respect of my teammates and my coaches and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.”

Does that statement surprise you? Of course not. That’s Barkley. Complete class. The perfect running back, the perfect teammate, the perfect Penn Stater.

Barkley certainly had the numbers to earn an invite to New York.

During the 12-game regular season, Barkley rushed for 1,134 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s not too shabby catching the ball as well, hauling in 47 balls for 594 yards (12.6 per game) and three TDs. On kickoff returns, he averaged 28.4 yards per return and scored a pair of TDs on kickoffs.

He accounted for 126 of Penn State’s points. For good measure, he threw a couple of passes, completing both. One went for a touchdown.

But in the end, his best wasn’t good enough.

That’s OK.

Nittany Nation got to enjoy Barkley for three years. We’ll get to watch him one last time in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30, when the Nittany Lions take on Washington in Glendale, Ariz.

During his collegiate career, Barkley has rushed for 3,706 yards and 41 touchdowns. He’s also hauled in 95 passes for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers are staggering. He’s one of the best players in Penn State history.

Barkley might be a great football player, but he’s an even better person.

Did you know that on Nov. 12, a day after Penn State throttled Rutgers, 35-6, Barkley got up early the next morning and hung out with children at the Centre County Youth Service Bureau? He had breakfast with them and played catch in the parking lot.

Barkley didn’t have to do that, of course. But he did. It speaks to his character.

If there’s a better player, a better person in all of college football, I’m not certain who that is.

Barkley brought the swagger back to Penn State. Don’t ever forget how important he was. The kid can do it all.

He has matured as a football player and as a person since arriving in Happy Valley.

Come April, he’s going to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. We’ll be watching him on Sundays soon enough.

Chances are that you'll be cheering for him, even if he’s not on your favorite team.

That's just the kind of player, the kind of person Saquon Barkley is.




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