Penn State Football

What Saquon Barkley said about facing Miles Sanders twice as NFC East rivals

Miles Sanders is ready to show the world what he can do

Penn State running back Miles Sanders is ready to be Miles Sanders and show the world what he can do on the heels of Saquon Barkley
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Penn State running back Miles Sanders is ready to be Miles Sanders and show the world what he can do on the heels of Saquon Barkley

When Saquon Barkley visited Penn State to support his former teammates at February’s Pro Day, he asked his successor, Miles Sanders, which teams were showing interest. Barkley, the face of the New York Giants, remembers Sanders’ response verbatim: “I think the Eagles are going to take me.”

The two looked at each other and smiled. “Well, I guess I’ll see you two times a year,” Barkley said at the time.

Of course, Sanders’ gut feeling came true. Philadelphia selected the former Nittany Lion with the No. 53 overall pick in April — the highest the Eagles have picked a running back since LeSean McCoy went at the same spot in 2009. Philadelphia plans to use Sanders quite a bit; general manager Howie Roseman called the north-south, one-cut rusher as a “perfect fit” for the Eagles’ offense.

Sanders might not start from the get-go. He almost certainly won’t take on a bell-cow back load like Barkley did with other options (Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, etc.) populating Philly’s backfield. But Barkley will soon see his friend and former teammate on the field as NFC East division rivals.

“When he got drafted, I FaceTime’d him,” Barkley said smiling after his youth football camp at Holuba Hall on Saturday. “I said I was ready for him, and he said he was ready for me. It’s awesome to be able to go and play against him two times a year.”

The first meeting between Barkley and Sanders? Monday, Dec. 9, at Lincoln Financial Field. Three weeks later, the Giants host Philadelphia in the regular-season finale.

Now, it won’t be the first time Barkley or Sanders face another former Penn State teammate. As a rookie, Barkley was reunited Chris Godwin, Donovan Smith and Adrian Amos when the Giants met the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears. Sanders, meanwhile, will square off with Trace McSorley’s Baltimore Ravens in the preseason, Amani Oruwariye’s Detroit Lions in September and Connor McGovern’s Dallas Cowboys twice.

But it’s hard to imagine a Penn State matchup having more intrigue than Barkley v. Sanders. There’s so much shared history and comparisons between the two, perhaps unfairly at times to Sanders.

“What he went through, coming here as a five-star to sitting back and waiting for his spot and his moment, when he got his moment he took advantage of it,” Barkley said of Sanders’ 2018 season, in which No. 24 outrushed No. 26’s 2017 totals. “To be the second running back taken in the draft — and in my opinion, the best running back in the draft — he’s going to prove that to the league this year. I’m really excited for him.”

That said, Barkley and Sanders will try to outproduce one another on Dec. 9 and 29. Barkley wouldn’t have it any other way.

“At the end of the day, we’ve still got love,” Barkley added. “But when we see each other those two times, we’re going to compete.”

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