Before Penn State, Saquon Barkley hoped only for an opportunity at Kutztown
In an informal media poll run by Cleveland.com ahead of Big Ten media days, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the overwhelming choice as the conference’s offensive player of the year.
It’s the latest sign that big things are expected of the junior this fall after a stellar first two years in State College. And while many have been surprised by Penn State’s rise to Big Ten champs less than five years after crippling NCAA sanctions, Barkley’s rise has surprised even himself.
An in-depth Sports Illustrated feature by Pete Thamel last week shows that Barkley’s trajectory wasn’t always pointed toward being the premier offensive player in one of the nation’s best conferences and college football as a whole:
Yet just three years ago Barkley’s future lacked the same aura of inevitability. He struggled so much with confidence that his coaches at Whitehall (Pa.) High considered themselves more psychologists than strategists. As a sophomore Barkley confided to friends that he hoped to earn a scholarship to Division II Kutztown (Pa.) University. “It’s hard to believe,” says Whitehall athletic director Bob Hartman, “how far he’s come in two years.”
Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, including a 194-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl that also featured five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Barkley, along with quarterback Trace McSorley, was named to the Big Ten’s preseason honors list Monday.
In November 2015, PennLive profiled Barkley’s swift rise in a visit to his hometown:
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