Column: Barkley's greatness will be missed

UNIVERSITY PARK — By now, you know the news.

Saquon Barkley is leaving Penn State.

That’s not a surprise, of course. Everyone expected him to go. But it’s still hard to take. After all, the kid was complete class during his time at Penn State.

There’s an old Dr. Seuss saying that says: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

That’s the attitude Penn State fans need to have when it comes to Barkley.

During his three seasons at Penn State, he did everything right and represented the university amazingly well.

While he made an impact as a freshman and sophomore, his junior season was his best yet.

Barkley, of course, didn’t win the Heisman Trophy. Heck, he didn’t even get an invite to New York City for the trophy presentation. However, based on his performance in the Fiesta Bowl, he probably should have at least been invited. After all, none of the Heisman finalists won their bowl games. Barkley’s Penn State squad not only won, he played an integral role in the win.

On Saturday, Barkley rushed for 137 yards on 18 carries and scored a pretty TD on a signature 92-yard run. He also caught seven balls for 38 yards. Not a bad afternoon of work for a guy who really had nothing to gain by playing. Yes, a lot of college players who are entering the draft early skip their team’s bowl game.

That’s not Barkley.

He played and played hard. He’s a competitor, through and through. There’s no way he was going to miss this one.

Barkley’s numbers at Penn State are nothing short of amazing.

He broke on the scene during his freshman season, carrying the ball 182 times for 1,076 yards – an average of 5.9 per carry. He scored seven times.

During his sophomore year, he racked up 1,496 yards on 272 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per carry. He scored a whopping 18 times.

This season, he finished with 1,271 yards on 217 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Again, he scored 18 TDs.

But he’s so much more than just a running back. He can catch the football as well. As a freshman, he caught 20 balls for 161 yards (8.1) and a TD. As a sophomore, he caught 28 balls for 402 yards (14.4) and four TDs. This season, he caught a whopping 54 balls for 632 yards (11.7) and three TDs.

In the return game, Barkley made his presence known, returning a pair of kickoffs for scores. One score came against Indiana. The other came against Ohio State. All told, Barkley returned 15 kickoffs for 426 yards.

But Barkley’s greatness isn’t all about his numbers. It’s the way he conducts himself on and off the field. He’s complete class. There’s no showboating, no trash talking. Sure, he celebrates his TDs with his patented windmill. That will get him ready for Sundays in the NFL.

Barkley is expected to be a top 10 pick when the NFL Draft takes place.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Congrats, No. 26. Your greatness will be missed.

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