Penn State Football

What’s it been like to play with and against Saquon Barkley? Players, coaches sound off

For the past three years, Saquon Barkley has garnered adoration and applause — the vast majority of it well-deserved, too.

The former Nittany Lion — who announced his decision Sunday to leave Penn State early and enter the NFL draft — produced on the field and carried himself with aplomb off of it, lending himself to plenty of praise.

As way to remember the Whitehall High School product’s time at Penn State, we picked out the best quotes about Barkley as told to the CDT over the years.

Mike Gesicki, Penn State tight end

“Saquon’s the best player in the country. I don’t think there’s any question about that. Whether he’s catching it, he’s running it, he’s pass blocking — he’s doing it to the best of his abilities. And those abilities are pretty special.”

Urban Meyer, Ohio State head coach

“He’s the best all-purpose guy we’ve probably faced in maybe my career. You have ways of bottling up great running backs. It’s hard, especially with this guy. It’s really hard. The fact that they motion him out and create matchup nightmares, that’s what makes this guy, I mean, he’s — I’d be careful to say this — but he’s as good an all-purpose running back as we’ve seen. And that’s 30 years.”

Koa Farmer, Penn State linebacker

“He’s the truth.”

Linda Macgill, Whitehall High School guidance counselor

“Early on I asked him, ‘Do you think you’re good? You can tell me anything. You’re not going to be a hot dog around me. Do you think you have some skill?’ He said, ‘Miss, I think I do.’ I’m laughing when I think back on that. Now he’s leaping over people.”

Chris Frey, Michigan State linebacker

“He has that ridiculous hurdle that no one can predict when it’s coming. It makes it a lot harder to tackle him because you never know what he’s going to do. He’s just a different breed.”

Evan Royster, former Penn State back and all-time leading rusher

“I would put him in a completely different category. I mean, just create a new level of running back for him.”

Brendan Mahon, Penn State offensive lineman

“There’s no better feeling than seeing Saquon loose in the open. That’s the greatest view you can see: the 26.”

Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN analyst

“I called his game at Ohio State when he was a freshman and remember leaving that night thinking, ‘That kid No. 26, wow.’ I mean, he went for almost 200 yards. That was the night when I saw how physical he could be. But this year, you can tell how much work he’s put in the offseason, becoming a better receiver. He’s no longer just a traditional back, taking a handoff and go. ... He is as elusive a guy, for as big and powerful as he is, as any back I’ve ever seen. And he does things that I don’t even think he knows what he’s doing. ... You’ve seen the size of his legs. You’re not technically allowed to be as elusive and big as he is. He has that rare combination.”

Lou Prato, Penn State historian and author

“What would Barkley have done if he had a great offensive line like Ki-Jana (Carter) had? He would win the Heisman. I’m convinced he would win the Heisman.”

James Franklin, Penn State head coach

“Everybody talks about the yards, the touchdowns, the hurdles, but for the people that have been able to get to know Saquon Barkley, he’s a better person. ... He’s been fantastic. I’m very, very proud of him and his total development since he’s arrived on our campus. ... Blessed to have coached him.”

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa head coach

“Probably two of the most dynamic guys that come to mind for me are Antwaan Randle El and Barkley, just in terms of what they can do and how they can impact the game. Barkley’s had a great career already, but the the game he played against us, I don’t know if anybody during my career has been more impactful.”

Andrew Nelson, Penn State offensive lineman

“It isn’t, ‘Maybe Saquon is having an off day. Maybe he’s just not going to make plays today.’ You never think that. You know, at some point, this kid is going to make a huge play. Whether it’s the first quarter, second quarter, first half, second half, whatever, he’s going to.”

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern head coach

“Barkley is maybe the best player I’ve ever seen on tape. And I’ve played against some pretty good backs. I’ve coached against some pretty good backs. But he’s just absolutely spectacular.”

DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State wide receiver

“Guys like him, he could take the easy road out. Knowing how good his talent is, he could just bank on that and not have to be a leader or worry about anyone else. But he’s been the exact opposite.”

Tom Allen, Indiana head coach

“It takes more than one guy to get him on the ground. You better get a lot of hats to the ball because he’s just so powerful and quick. ... If we played with 12 (players), you’d feel a lot better.”

Sean Spencer, Penn State defensive line coach and Barkley’s primary recruiter

“It’s almost like a storybook of a person where you say, ‘I’m going to create the perfect guy to come in and play college football and the perfect guy to be a leader on your team,’ and that’s Saquon. I mean, he’s a tremendous character kid, and he’s always been that way.”

Alicia Knauff, Whitehall High School assistant principal

“He doesn’t like to tell people no. He doesn’t like to let people down.”

Kyle Brady, former Penn State tight end

“He’s the type of talent that only comes along every so often. His explosiveness, agility and ability to change directions, the balance. They’re all really unique. I’d be pretty surprised if someone didn’t take him in a top-10 slot.”

Tim Cunningham, Whitehall High School wrestling coach

“He’ll make sure he Snapchats my son in the morning just to keep that streak alive. Imagine how many people he has to do that to because he doesn’t want to upset anybody. But he’ll make sure he does it. It’s a long streak and my son will brag about it. ... He’s someone you want your own son to be like.”

LaVar Arrington, former Penn State linebacker

“He runs with speed, and his pad level that he plays at and his movement is a lot like Ki-Jana (Carter). That was like the dopest running back I remember watching during the Penn State days. There are a lot of Penn State running backs that were awesome, but Saquon is in a league of his own in a lot of ways.”

Bill Belton, former Penn State running back

“I haven’t seen a guy like that before. The sky’s the limit for him. He has everything that a back needs to be successful in college and for the next level. ... That kid is a star, and the NFL is written all over him.”

Akeel Lynch, former Penn State running back

“It first hit me when he was the same size as me when he first walked in. Hold up, actually, no — his legs were the size of tree trunks. I was like, ‘Man. He’s a unique specimen.’ ... I knew my time at Penn State was done when he hurdled the guy against Buffalo.”

Larry Johnson, former Penn State running back and Heisman Trophy finalist

“I would say to appreciate him. Appreciate what he’s brought to the team and what he’s brought to the school. ... A kid like that doesn’t come around that often. There are a lot of talented running backs and a lot of talented players. But there’s none of them that has the story like he does. ... Hopefully in years to come, in 40 or 60 years, he’ll be up there with one of the players who gets a retired jersey.”

Taylor Rapp, Washington defensive back

“On a five-yard run, he might make three or four people miss. ... Everyone knows about Saquon. He’s a special player.”

Joe Moorhead, former Penn State offensive coordinator

“I don’t know that anything the kid does can surprise you anymore. I think the Iowa game was essentially a microcosm of this kid’s skill-set — and he had 350-plus all-purpose yards and did it on the ground, did it catching the ball and did a very good job in pass protection. I don’t get to see every player in the country on a weekly basis, but if there’s a better one I’d be hard-pressed to believe it.”

Marcus Allen, Penn State safety

“Saquon’s a dog. That’s simply what it is. Saquon’s a dog, and dogs do dog things.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

Related stories from Centre Daily Times