RB Barkley happy with NFL choice

What was obvious all year became reality late Sunday night when Saquon Barkley announced he’s giving up his final year of college eligibility and entering the NFL draft.

The sensational running back wasn’t ready to let the world know his decision following Penn State’s Fiesta Bowl win over Washington on Saturday, but he didn’t let questions linger longer than necessary and explained his decision a day later in a lengthy Instagram post titled, “Dear Penn State Nation.”

“I would like to start off by saying thank you so much for all of the memories that you have helped create over the last three years, whether it be on the football field, in school or in the community. I am forever grateful to you for making my time here so enjoyable. You have been amazing to me through the ups and downs of my career and you will always have a special place in my heart.

“With that being said, God has blessed me with the opportunity to pursue the dream I have had since I was a little kid of playing in the NFL. I would like to thank God, my family, especially my mom, dad, brothers and sisters, my coaches and teammates, the athletic training and performance enhancements staffs at Penn State, my support system from Whitehall and the Penn State fans who have helped me be in position to have a decision like this. After lots of thought, prayer and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to forgo my senior season and enter the NFL draft.”

Barkley is considered the No. 1 player available by several draft experts. That doesn’t mean he will be the top overall pick, but he is expected to be taken in the top 10, and perhaps the top five.

If Barkley goes in the top five, he would be in line for a rookie contract worth about $20 million.

Barkley appeared on ESPN’s “GameDay” program from the Rose Bowl on Monday and was asked why he could be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“I think I am a versatile player, I think I can do it all,” Barkley said. “I think I put on film that I am more than just a running back. Personally, I think I am a great teammate, I think I am a great leader. I think I impact the game in different ways. Even when the ball isn’t in my hands, I think I impact the game. I think I can make stuff happen with the ball in my hands, too.”

Barkley was a consensus All-American this year and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. He rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 TDs, including a 92-yarder in the Fiesta Bowl that tied the longest run in PSU history. He also caught 54 passes for 632 yards and three TDs, plus he returned two kickoffs for scores.

“Saquon Barkley is a once in a lifetime type of player, and it has been an honor to coach him and watch him grow into a fantastic young man,” PSU coach James Franklin said in a university statement. “Saquon has left a legacy both on and off the field that will long be remembered by the Penn State community.

“Saquon knows he has some unfinished business in the classroom. Knowing how much it means to him, I have the utmost confidence that he will follow through on his promise and the plan that we have discussed to earn his Penn State degree. As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person, and I look forward to watching him achieve his dream of playing in the NFL. We wish him nothing but the best on Sundays and we know that he will make us Penn State proud!”

One of Barkley’s first orders of business will be to buy his mom a house.

“I hope I have left a lasting impression on this University, football program and community at large,” he wrote. “It has been an honor and privilege to be able to call Penn State home and represent the Blue & White and all of the great players who came before me and will follow after me. I will continue to work each and every day to continue to represent Penn State the right way as I move on to the next phase of my life.

“I am aware I am coming up short on getting my degree, but I have made a promise to my mom, dad and Coach Franklin that I will continue to pursue my dream of obtaining a Penn State degree. I am so thankful to my family for all of the sacrifices they made to get me in this position. To my teammates and coaches for the last three years, it has been a blessing to call you guys family. I love you guys so much. To the 107k strong, I will miss you and the amazing support you have shown me and the Penn State Football program. We Are!”