Two weeks ago in Dallas, as James Franklin sat beside Saquon Barkley in the AT&T Stadium green room — waiting on pins and needles for the call to come in — the Penn State head coach was brought back to the beginning.
Franklin remembered visiting Whitehall High School and speaking with Zephers head coach Brian Gilbert and guidance counselor Linda MacGill about a promising 16-year-old. He recalled sitting in Barkley's living room, pitching Penn State to a budding prospect and his family. He relived Barkley's three-year dominance as a Nittany Lion — the Rose Bowl run, the 53 touchdowns and the countless times he took Beaver Stadium's breath away.
When Barkley's phone rang — when Giants general manager Dave Gettleman informed the legendary running back that New York was selecting him at No. 2 overall — the story of Saquon Barkley added a new chapter. And Franklin was proud to be there for it.
"It was pretty powerful," Franklin said at Tuesday's Coaches Caravan stop in the Big Apple. "It was great to just see that entire evolution of Saquon."
Now, Barkley faces an entirely different animal: The NFL, and being a star in New York. Rookie camp doesn't start until next week, and Giants legends like Harry Carson are already dubbing the back a future Hall of Famer.
Talk about pressure.
But Franklin — standing in The New Yorker Hotel, eight miles from MetLife Stadium — believes Barkley is equipped to handle it all.
"The transition from high school to college is dramatic and the transition from college to the NFL may be even more dramatic," Franklin said. "He's going to have work on (his game) and improve. But I do think he's got an NFL-ready body, and I think he's been very mature in his approach to the game.
"I also know that he's not one of those guys that feels like he's arrived. He feels like this is just the beginning for him."
As Barkley begins a new journey in New York, so do the Nittany Lions four hours west. Franklin and Penn State are tasked with replacing a consensus All-American, someone who left a "residual" impact on the program but not a clone to take his place.
Regardless, Franklin's mind wasn't on the future running back room on Tuesday, and it certainly wasn't on April 26.
For Franklin, draft day was about appreciating a player he watched grow up. And it was about getting a hug, too.
"Saquon said, 'Hey I can't hug everybody.' And I said, 'Just so we're clear, you're hugging me,'" Franklin said with a smile, recalling the moments just before the Giants rang. "I was sitting right next to mom and dad, and I'm like, 'I'm getting a hug because you know I'm an emotional guy, I'm probably going to start crying anyway, so you're hugging me.' And he started laughing. It was great."