ATLANTA – The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has been bestowed since 1957. In the first 57 years of the award, through 2013, no Giants player ever won it.
Now the Giants have accounted for two of the last five.
Saquon Barkley capped his extraordinary debut season here tonight when he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, matching the achievement of wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. in 2014. Fittingly, Beckham presented Barkley with the award at the eighth annual NFL Honors, held here in the Fox Theater the night before the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams face off in Super Bowl LIII. Beckham was the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year since Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor won the defensive award in 1981.
Since Beckham was honored, three of the last four Offensive Rookies of the Year have been running backs, including the Rams’ Todd Gurley in 2015 and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara last year. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott won the award in 2016.
“It’s crazy to win this award,” Barkley said at a brief news conference after receiving the trophy. “Definitely an honor. “You dream about stuff like this when you’re a little kid. To actually accomplish this is amazing.”
On the stage moments after Beckham announced his name, Barkley said, “It’s an honor to win this award. First and foremost, I want to say thank you to God. I’ve been blessed by him. I want to say thank you to fans, especially my parents. I want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches, and the Giants organization as a whole. Any kid who looks up to me, or any athlete, you can do anything in the world. As long as you put your mind to it and continue to work, anything is possible.”
The other finalist for the award was Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who threw an NFL rookie-record 27 touchdown passes. Mayfield was the only player selected before Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Definitely want to shout out to Baker. He had a great year.” Barkley said. “Happy for him, proud of him.
“I knew it was going to be a really close race. I didn’t know who was going to win. It was up for grabs. … Baker had an unbelievable season. What he did for Cleveland was unbelievable. He deserved to win. I wish we could go co-(winners). For me to win this award is amazing.”
Earlier this week, Barkley received two significant though unofficial honors. He was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, an award that is determined by a fan vote on NFL.com.
This afternoon, Barkley was named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year. The other finalists were Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Gurley. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year. The FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year awards are a culmination of weekly awards presented by FedEx throughout the NFL season.
Barkley had one of the most productive rookie seasons by a running back in NFL history, and he inserted his name into numerous sections of the Giants’ franchise records.
The second overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft led the team with 261 rushing attempts for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns, and 91 catches, which accounted for an additional 721 yards and four scores. Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage.
Barkley was the first rookie to lead the Giants in rushing since Andre Williams in 2014 (with 721 yards) and the first to lead the club in receptions since Beckham that same season (with the same total, 91).
He set Giants rookie records for rushing yards - Barkley’s 1,307 yards were 477 more than the No. 2 rookie on the franchise’s list, Tuffy Leemans’ 830 yards, set way back in 1936; receptions (tying Beckham’s total of 91); total touchdowns with 15 (the former record of 12 was shared by Bill Paschal (1943) and Beckham (2014); and rushing touchdowns with 11 (the former mark of 10 had been held by Paschal since 1943).
Barkley led the NFL with seven 40+ yard runs and six 50+ yard runs. The latter figure is the highest single-season total by a Giants player since the 1970 merger. His six 50-yard runs were twice as many as any other NFL player had in 2018.
Barkley had five touchdowns from scrimmage this season of 50 or more yards, the most ever by a Giants rookie and the most by any Giants player since Beckham had five in 2015. Barkley was the first NFL rookie with five 50+ yard touchdowns from scrimmage since Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss in 1998.
Barkley – who wore a white tuxedo and black Nike sneakers to NFL Honors - was thrilled that Beckham, his teammate and close friend, was the presenter.
“It’s funny, because he’s been calling me the Rookie of the Year even before I was his teammate, before I was drafted to the Giants,” Barkley said. “Ever since I met him, he’s been calling me that. We were sitting at lunch one day and he said, ‘I hope you win Rookie of the Year, and you know what, I want to be there to present it to you.’ Obviously, Odell is Odell and got it set up.
“For him to be up there and presenting for the Rookie of the Year is amazing. I’m very thankful for him and for having him in my life as a friend.”
Barkley received the award with some of the great running backs in history in the audience, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, and Jim Brown.
“You definitely get nervous up there,” Barkley said. “Barry is sitting behind me and Curtis Martin is sitting in front of me to the right. It’s not only them, it’s all the great players, current and former and the legends. A lot of those guys won awards like this, and for my name to be underneath this and win this award and accomplish this, and obviously with the help of my teammates and the Giants, it’s truly amazing.”
Just like Barkley’s rookie season.