SAQUON BARKLEY PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants 1st-round draft pick running back Saquon Barkley addressed the media at Quest Diagnostics Center on Saturday. The video is available at Giants.com.
Opening Statement: How are you guys going? Saquon Barkley, running back for the New York Giants. Just so happy to be a part of the New York Giants.
Q: When you started this whole draft process, did you get a sense that this is where you were always going to land?
A: Yeah, I mean, you really never know where you are going to go. Obviously, you see all the reports on social media and everything, but personally, on my visit here, I kind of fell in love with this place. Obviously, I came from Penn State and the reason why I chose Penn State is the history and tradition there, and the networking, obviously. But with the football side, you walk in this building, the first thing you see is four Lombardi Trophies. And right then and there, it shows this place and the standard. And as a football player, you’ve got to love that. And then obviously meeting the coaches, the GM and the owners and everyone, just feeling really comfortable with them, having great conversations. This is where I wanted to end up. Obviously, throughout the Draft process, I was not allowed to say that. You’ve got to kind of be neutral because you never know what can happen. But right now, it’s the ideal situation for me and my family, staying close to home, coming back home. I was born in New York and being able to play for the New York Giants, it’s amazing and it’s truly an honor.
Q: How excited are you to become a part of the building here?
A: Yeah, that’s something that you try to do. Especially, that’s a goal that I set for myself at Penn State, walking into the building and you see all the pictures and the great running backs and you see the same thing here. When I went to go meet with Coach [Craig] Johnson, the running backs coach, the first thing you see on the running back wall is all the great running backs, the Tiki Barbers of the world. And that’s what you strive to do. You want to be great and, obviously, it’s not going to happen in one day. You’ve got to work for it and it’s going to take a long road and you’ve got to take it step by step.
Q: What part of your skillset makes you most confident for this new chapter?
A: I won’t say my skillset because it’s a talented league. Everyone’s talented in the league. I think at a young age, the mental part of the game and my mentality towards the game and my approach towards the game is what is going to help separate me. And you know there’s going to be a lot of things thrown your way and thrown in your face, but you’ve got to keep that mentality and keep that focus. I love football and I’m passionate about the game and I truly think if I can keep that mindset and the work ethic that I had in college and I’ve had my whole life, then the rest will take care of itself.
Q: You said the other day that you had an opportunity to speak with Odell and with Eli Manning. Can you share any of the advice that they gave you?
A: Yeah, I got to meet Eli here [at the facility]. Eli actually texted me right after it was announced that I was drafted, just saying congratulations and if I ever needed anything, he’s here for me. And that’s something you admire out of a guy, especially as a young guy coming into the league, a young back. You’ve got a guy that’s been in the league for 15 years and been doing it the right way, you can definitely learn from him. Odell has been a very good friend of mine, I started training with him in L.A. and he’s been great to me. Kind of like a bigger brother to me, actually. He kept telling me he wishes he knew the things he knew now at my age, and I’m going to learn from the great things he did and the mistakes that he made and try to improve on myself to make myself a better person and a better player for this franchise.
Q: Anything in particular that he said that got your attention?
A: Nothing in particular that really sticks in my mind. Just general knowledge that he’s given me. Obviously, with the life of being a New York Giant, being a well-known franchise and being in the media, the New York media and the spotlight, just how to handle yourself and what not to do and what to do. Just kind of little tips there and other great guys in this facility and this locker room that I look forward to learn from, especially a guy like [running back] Jonathan Stewart. As a young back, to learn from him, he’s been in the NFL for a very long time and I can’t wait to pick his brain, too.
Q: One of the phrases that we heard about you is being the face of the franchise or the face of the league. How do you define that?
A: I think the face of a franchise is kind of how you take it. I know that’s been said about me and that’s been said about me in college at Penn State. But I think it’s kind of how you view it. I really never view myself as that. If that comes along with the things that I’m doing, then so be it. But the way that I kind of handle that is just continue to stay focused on the sport and continue to stay focused on football and focus on my family and the things that get you there. But the face of the franchise, when you have success, that tag comes along [with it]. That’s kind of how I view it. The more success you have, the more attention and the more spotlight comes to your name and they kind of tag you with that. But that’s not something that I’m really looking forward to being. If that happens, God willing, I have a lot of success and that comes with the territory, then so be it. But the thing I’m focused on right now is just really coming in as a rookie and getting the playbook, learning the playbook, learn from the older guys, learn how to lead at a young age. That’s something that’s a challenge for me and I know I’ve been challenged by the coaches here, that I look forward to. And to continue to get ready every single day and to get better every single day.
Q: You are the No. 2 pick and you are in the New York market. What is your general approach and how are you going to handle all of that?
A: Yeah, the first thing with the way you handle that, that situation, is your circle. Keep your circle small and keep your circle tight and realize the people that were with you along the way that got you to this point. And right now, that’s my family. My family, my brothers and sisters, my mother and father and my kid on the way – not on the way, it’s here now [laughs]. I’m so used to saying on the way. But my family, keep my family close. And keep my team, my management, my management company and my agency/marketing company, ROC NATION and GoldPoint. Continue to have a strong approach, but understand that the most important thing is football. At the end of the day, you’ve got to take care of that and all the other stuff is just distractions. And if it becomes a distraction, I won’t do it. You can ask my agent, you can ask my marketing guy, when it comes to the media, if it has anything to do with distracting me from training or football, I just wouldn’t do it. I had been approached a lot during the NFL Combine and during the NFL Combine and prepping and all that, and I denied a lot. But the main thing is keep your circle tight, keep a great team, which I believe I have and I know I have and continue to stay focused on football.
Q: I’m sure you always dreamed of this, but at what point did becoming the No. 2 overall pick really hit you?
A: Yeah, I don’t think it hit me yet. It hit me a little bit when I walked into the locker room and I saw a 26 jersey and a Barkley jersey. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually a New York Giant.’ I still have a lot of time to let it hit me. I actually think it will when I get here for rookie minicamp, to see all the guys and actually put that jersey on, and take the field. But right now, it’s just a surreal moment and I haven’t had time to really take it all in.
Q: You talked about already talking with Eli and Odell. Are you excited to become a part of this offense?
A: Yeah, this offense is amazing. This is a very talented offense. You’ve got an established quarterback, a proven quarterback with two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVPs. You’ve got one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, if not the best. In my opinion, personally, I think so. And you’ve got a young wide receiving corps and adding [offensive linemen] Will Hernandez and Nate Solder to the offensive line. And myself, God willing, if I can have the success that I had college football, I think I would fit perfect in this offense. But right now, the way I see myself is coming in and learning from the guys, from the older guys, and lead at a young age. Getting the playbook and taking it day by day.
Q: What makes a running back a good receiver?
A: Yeah, one is catching the ball, obviously. You’ve got to be confident catching the ball out of the backfield. And then, being versatile. A lot of guys can run screens, a lot of guys can run swings, but being able to be versatile. And I feel like as a back at 230, that I’m able to line up in the slot and run a route and definitely take advantage of man-on-man opportunities. But definitely running the routes, and understanding why you’re running the routes. Understanding the concepts of the play and your routes dictating to open up this guy on the backside of you and understanding that. And that’s something that I didn’t understand in my freshman year and kind of got it a little my sophomore year, but by my junior year, it really started clicking. So, definitely looking forward to obviously seeing the playbook and understanding the route tree, understanding what my route is and where I’ve got to be and what place I’ve got to be to open someone else up.
Q: Like Odell, you have shown an ability to score anywhere on the field. Do you practice that? And what are the qualities you need to be able to do that?
A: Well, I would say that the first thing is you have to believe in yourself and you have to be confident. I’m very confident in myself and sometimes that hurts you, that’s the thing that I have to improve on. I have this mindset and mentality that any time I touch the ball that I can score and I really truly believe that, but sometimes I try to do a little too much. In the NFL a four-yard run is a great run and in college it’s a great run and I started to understand that a little bit, but that’s where I want to get to on the next level and that’s what I think is going to help take me to the next level. But having that mindset and practicing, the kind of practice of finishing runs in practice, if it’s a walk through or something that I did in college it would be like a teammate or a quarterback, finishing at least six yards and getting a little burst to be ready to out run that angle or that safety and set it up and also watching film – seeing guys, how they create space and open running space and how they create it. A lot of this game is about angles, everyone is fast in this league, so you have to be able to dictate the person in the game and understanding how important that is and understanding that in the NFL and college football and football itself how important it is in finishing that play. During my freshman year I was getting caught and I remember against Michigan I got caught on the five-, 10-yard line and we didn’t end up finishing that drive where anything can happen, so you have to find a way to finish that play and get in the end zone and put six on the board.
Q: What about plays like the run against Iowa? Is that in the weight room or is it practice with movements?
A: Yeah, I would say it’s a little bit of both. If you can do a little bit of stuff in the weight room, that’s what I want to focus on a little bit now is efficient movements that translates to the football field. That helps, but a lot of it honestly is God-given – vision and kind of instincts just naturally take over. Sometimes you do stuff in games that you sit back and go, ‘Wow.’ But that’s just part of the game and you can kind of work on it watching film, it doesn’t really help when you have a guy hanging on you and breaking tackles, but just having the determination and the guts to try a new thing or trying to jump over someone or I think also just the motivation and passion you have for your teammates – that you want to succeed for your teammates and succeed for your team, so you will do anything and it kind of takes over for you.
Q: There were a couple thousand people in the stadium during that draft and they are expecting great things out of you. How do you go about living up to those expectations?
A: The expectations I view as a challenge and you have to be willing to rise up to the challenge and that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to my whole life, in high school and college and certainly now with the statements that Dave (Gettleman) and Coach (Shurmur) made about me and the pick does kind of solidify the mindset of the team and I love that. I think this team is definitely built to win now. They were a great team last year, I know their record doesn’t speak for that, but injuries are part of football, they happen and a lot of things didn’t go their way in a lot of games. I just feel like I can hopefully and God willingly if I have to sit back in college and continue that motivation and that passion and work ethic at a young age, then I can come in here and bring a new dimension to the game, to the run game and to be able to have that pressure to demand that attention that can open up other things and kind of be like a pick your poison spot on the offense, and when you have a good offense you have a good defense and when you have a good defense you have a good offense and special teams, all of the above.
Q: As a rookie coming in, how hard is it to balance coming in and learn everything while still taking on a leadership role?
A: That’s a challenge that I’m definitely looking forward to. I had a conversation with my father and my mom about that and teammates and how you come in a locker room at the age of 21 and lead when you’re with guys like Eli Manning and Odell, and, well, I just have to be who I am. That’s the best advice that I’ve gotten throughout this whole process. It’s ‘be Saquon Barkley’ and everything else will take care of itself. The way I view that is coming into the locker room and be who you are, I’m a determined guy, I love the game of football, I love talking football, I love hanging out with the guys, I love my teammates and I’m willing to do anything for my teammates and earn their respect. You have to earn the respect of your teammates first and I’m under that mindset that nothing is given to you, you have to earn everything and that’s first and foremost with that mindset and earn the respect of your teammates. That’s something that I feel like in college during my freshman year I didn’t do, I didn’t step up to that challenge and I didn’t speak enough and I kind of sat back and let the Hacks of the world speak and I didn’t take that approach where I felt like at that time, looking back, I could have definitely helped. But first and foremost you have to earn the respect of your teammates and the respect of the team itself and the coaches and then slowly work your way up to that.
Q: Do you have any memories of growing up in the Bronx?
A: I don’t really have memories of that much in the Bronx. I left there when I was five or six, but I went back and forth to the Bronx until I got into high school football and then high school football kind of took over and I really haven’t been back there. But the impact definitely looking back on it – the sacrifice that my mom and my dad made not only for myself but for my siblings, and that’s why that night, that draft night, was so special to be able to walk up on that podium and receive that jersey, and thankfully it’s a New York Giants jersey and be able to have my parents see that and let them know that the sacrifice and everything they made for the family and the way that they taught me and being a little kid and the way that they raised me is all coming together, and I’m going to continue to try to do the right things and make not only my mother and father, but my brothers and sisters, proud.
Q: You mentioned that you are going to pick Jonathan Stewart’s brain. What is one of the first things you are going to ask him?
A: Oh yeah, that’s easy. He’s been in the league I would say nine, 10 years plus and at a position where the shelf life for a running back is not that long and I want to know how you do it. I want to pick your brain. I want to watch you. I want to see the things he does and the way he takes care of his body, what time he’s in and what time he’s out. Try to compete with him, obviously learn, but try to compete with him and try to take it to another level to try to improve my game and improve my longevity of the game because that’s the whole thing about running back, it’s how long can you do it? You can run for 100 yards for the first four games, but can you keep that up when your body gets the wear and tear. Especially from going from college football straight to Combine training and then straight to rookie mini camp to mini camp and camp itself, it’s such a long season and how do you do it? He’s been doing it for so long that that is definitely the first thing I will try to pick his brain on and just watch him.
Q: Is there a memory from the draft that you are holding on to and will be able to close your eyes 10 years down the line and go back to?
A: Yeah, that moment would be at the table when I received that call and you see that New Jersey number pop up and everybody is smiling, and getting on the phone and hearing them say that we’re going to draft you and we’re going to take you with this pick and seeing the smiles on my mom and dad’s faces and hugging my mom and the joy she had in my hug and hugging my dad and just seeing everyone, all of the close ones and people that I love, at that table and even the fans. I had a lot of family and fans in my section and to be able to see that put a smile on their face and not just saying we made it because we didn’t make it. That’s not the goal and the dream to make it to the NFL draft. The goal and the dream is to win championships, be a dominant player – that’s just a stepping stone, but seeing that joy and excitement from my mom and my dad and my family members will be the thing that I remember the most.
Q: When you were in college, I assume that there were teams that shut you down. Do you look forward to the NFL because defenses will not be able to just completely focus on you?
A: Yeah, definitely look forward to that but I feel like I want to get to the point where I’m a dominant player in the league and I have that presence. I think that’s why I was brought here to bring an impact to the running game, to have that same domination that I had in college where a team wants to just shut me down, and then it just opens up everyone else. And it’s vice versa, when you have Odell and Sterling and Eli throwing for 300-400 yards, then they are not focused on the run game and then I get to go. That’s where we were at our best in college with (Penn State QB) Trace (McSorley) and ‘Hammy’ (Penn State WR DeSean Hamilton) and (Penn State TE) Mike (Gesicki) and all of those guys where the run game would get going and then slow down a bit, but then the pass game would get going and vice versa. Having that impact in the game is what I look forward to and that’s why I think I was brought here, in my opinion, and I will continue growing.
Q: You’re from the Bronx, but are returning to New York as a professional. Is there anything you are looking to do in New York City?
A: I’ve been to a Broadway show – I’ve seen Hamilton, which is one of the greatest things I’ve seen in my life. I’d definitely encourage you guys to go see that. But I would say I’ve never been to the Empire State Building, I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty, but I’ve been out in the city a lot and especially now driving back and forth, so the most important thing I’m really looking forward to is putting that jersey on, putting on a show for the city of New York and New Jersey.
Q: Is there any running back in the league right now that you study? And who do you compare your game to?
A: There are a lot great backs in the NFL, obviously. I’m a big fan of the NFL and a big fan of running backs and the Ezekiel Elliots, the Le’Veon Bells, Todd Gurleys, Alvin Kamera, Leonard Fournette and the list goes on and on, and I watch all of the games and I try to take bits and pieces of all of their games. I feel like with the size I have and with the ability I have that I’m able to do that and the way I was raised and the way I was taught and I definitely have to give credit to my dad for helping me have this mindset and this mentality is never really try to compare yourself to anyone, never really try to be like someone else. Learn, definitely learn, because there is a lot to learn from, but be Saquon Barkley and learn from their games, but add it to my game and try to take it to the next level.