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Penn State Football: No Doubt About It, Saquon Barkley Is the Real Deal

by on March 02, 2016 6:20 PM

Saquon Barkley has never talked to the media as a college student. He hasn't done a single interview since he stepped on campus.

For the past eight months Penn State has stood firm with its program policy of not allowing freshmen speak to reporters. Christian Hackenberg is perhaps one of only a handful of players who never had that luxury.

If that's right or wrong doesn't much matter. Barkley will eventually surface in front of a microphone and talk about football. There is little doubt that day is sooner rather than later.

People ask all the time about what Penn State's star running back is like. And frankly I couldn't tell you.

Those who do know him say he's soft spoken, his babyface does little to refute that claim. His teammates say they respect him and their actions do little to suggest that isn't the case. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead's face lights up when he talks Barkley's freshman season and the film will make you gasp and understand why.

But perhaps it was strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt who summed it up the best. 

"He's a once in 10 years kind of guy." he said of Barkley's physical gifts.

On Wednesday, Penn State opened the doors to the Lasch Building to showcase one of the final days of winter workouts. Between the blaring music pumping into the weight room and the jumping and dancing between reps, it was hard to believe that the season is still months away.

It could have been a Wednesday in October judging by the energy levels, but yet it was simply March 2.

For many it was a chance to simply pick up some footage for the local news. An opportunity to grab new photos, be it of a coach a player or the ever changing facilities. It's a chance to touch base with a coach or two, say hello to a few players as they pass by. There will be stories written about shuttle times and bench press numbers, but those are as much out of the sheer lack of anything else to write about at this time of year as they are anything else.

But it was also a chance to get up close with maybe one of the best running backs in the entire country and currently the hardest interview to land in all of sports.

So when Barkley casually squatted 495 pounds seven times without a whole lot of energy expended, everyone watched. When he moved so did the crowd. All of this coming just a day after Barkley tied former defensive tackle Anthony Zettel's program record of a 390 pound power clean. According to Galt the 19-year-old casually ran a sub 4.40 40-yard dash which was best on the team this winter.

If there was something impressive to do, Saquon Barkley did it.

And that is probably the biggest thing to come out of a long and cold winter in State College. Barkley entered the workout program for the first time in his Penn State career and came out the other side stronger, faster and in better shape than he has ever been. For a player who managed just over 1,000 yards rushing despite essentially not playing in three and a half games last year, the idea that he's better today than he was at any point during the 2015 season is a slightly terrifying proposition. Where Christian Hackenberg may have been doomed to never live up to his own hype due to circumstance he kept Penn State on the globe. Barkley might put Penn State back on the map.

"When he got here his numbers were down here," Galt said, drawing a line through the air around knee height. "Now they're up here." he added, drawing a similar line through the air at shoulder level, grinning all the time.

So no, I've never talked to Saquon Barkley and it might be a while before that happens.

But after an hour of following him around, simply watching him lift weights and hearing about his winter, there's little need to guess anymore. Maybe every impressive run last year strengthened the hypothesis and kept the hype train rolling, but a cold Wednesday in early March has confirmed what everyone has long suspected.

He's the real deal. And 2015 wasn't a mistake.

It was only the beginning.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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