One year after lighting up USC in an all-time classic, Saquon Barkley made his return to the Rose Bowl on Monday morning.
Barkley — whose three touchdowns, including a memorable 79-yard run, in last season’s “The Granddaddy of Them All” captivated a national audience — joined ESPN’s College GameDay one day after declaring for the NFL draft. Barkley, who will forgo his senior season at Penn State, was asked why he decided to leave Happy Valley.
“My family,” Barkley said, still wearing a Penn State jacket as he sat next to ESPN’s Maria Taylor and David Pollack. “That was the biggest thing. I had an opportunity to change my family’s life, and they’ve done so much for me and made so many sacrifices for me. I want to give them the world, especially my mom and my dad.
“I promised my mom when I was a little kid that I would buy her a house one day, and I’m going to stay true to that promise. God blessed me with an opportunity to live my dream.”
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His dream — playing in the NFL — is going to come true in a big way. Barkley is projected as an early first-round selection in April’s draft, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. putting him No. 1 on his famous big board.
Barkley believes he can go No. 1, too.
“I think I’m a versatile player. I think I can do it all,” Barkley said, when asked about the possibility of being the first player selected. “I think I’ve put on film that I’m more than just a running back. Personally, I think I’m a great teammate, great leader. I think I can impact the game in different ways, even when the ball is not in my hands. I can make stuff happen with the ball in my hands, too.”
He proved that over his three years at Penn State, racking up 3,843 rushing yards, 43 rushing touchdowns, 1,195 receiving yards and eight receiving scores. He also had 500 kick return yards, two return touchdowns and even a passing touchdown.
Of course, 306 of those all-purpose yards came in the Rose Bowl. The game “didn’t end the way we would’ve liked,” Barkley said, as Penn State fell to the Trojans 52-49.
But as Barkley looked over his shoulder at the field he once tore up, Jan. 2, 2017 came back to him. He called the night “fun” and a “special memory.”
It was one of many performances that helped cement Barkley’s Penn State legacy, one he cares about quite a bit.
“That’s something that was really important to me,” Barkley said. “With the help of my teammates, I wanted to go out as one of the best and be remembered as one of the best players to come out of Penn State. Hopefully at the next level, I can continue to represent the blue and white.”