EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley has earned many titles and accolades in his 25 years, including All-American, Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler. Earlier this month, he received an off-field designation for which he is as proud of as anything he's achieved wearing a football uniform.
The Giants' stellar running back recently received his undergraduate degree from Penn State, four years after leaving the school as the second overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"It feels amazing," Barkley said. "It's something that my mom and dad always wanted me to do and accomplish. When I left Penn State, one of the things coach (James) Franklin told me is if I wanted to leave early, I had to come back and get my degree. I only had a couple of classes left. I thought it would be good to go back and get my degree. Obviously, I had a lot of ups and downs with injuries and stuff, so I had more free time to get some stuff done – sadly."
With strong support from family and friends, Barkley took two courses to complete his requirements for a communications degree.
"Everyone pushed me," he said. "My parents (Alibay Barkley and Tonya Johnson) pushed me to accomplish it, Anna (Congdon, his longtime girlfriend) pushed me to accomplish it, coach Franklin, obviously, and coach (Charles) Huff, my running back coach at the time, and I was happy to get it done.
"It was easy. It was online. It was something I wanted to do, get my college degree, and I was able to accomplish that."
Barkley, who has two brothers and two sisters, is the first member of his family to become a college graduate.
"I also thought it would be good to get my degree to set an example for my siblings and my family," he said. "I'm happy I was able to accomplish something that was a goal of mine. I want my kids (he has a daughter, Jada) to be goal setters and whatever they want to accomplish, they can do if they put their mind to it. I would love for them to one day say I want to accomplish this and actually see it come to fruition."
Penn State football social media accounts tweeted out a congratulations to Barkley that included a photo of him in his Nittany Lions uniform. It included the line, "it's never too late."
Barkley's only disappointment is he was unable to attend the graduation ceremony in State College.
"I know that's something I'm going to look back on and regret by not walking there and getting my degree," said Barkley, who said he plans to give his diploma to his parents. "I know that would have been cool for my family, cool for my parents and cool for coach Franklin. I'm happy, I'm excited. I know that one of my dreams was to make it to the NFL and I know the reason I went to Penn State was that if things didn't work out the way I wanted them to, I knew a degree from that school would take me much further. To accomplish both of those things is an amazing accomplishment. I'm happy and I'm glad I was able to knock it out."
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley's time with the New York Giants.