What Saquon Barkley’s new captain honor really means
He is just 23 years old and yet an already minted superstar, not only on the field. Everyone wants a piece of Saquon, no last name needed.
Fingers hovering over keyboards across the country have scrolled over and selected “Saquon Barkley’’ in fantasy football drafts, taking him off the board with the very first pick. He is the face of the Giants and increasingly a face of the league.
This week, he soared to a rarefied height without ever leaving the ground. Barkley was chosen by his peers as one of the seven team captains for the 2019 season, an honor rarely bestowed on individuals after only one year on the job.
This is not a science, but players are usually not swayed by talent when casting these votes. Captaincy is earned based on status as a veteran, effort on the field, and how someone comports himself and relates to those around him. This is exceedingly difficult to achieve after only one season, but Barkley has done it.
Odell Beckham Jr. in five years never was named a Giants captain. Truthfully, there was never any discussion about it. Beckham awed his teammates with his physical skill but did not move them to follow his lead. This is one of the reasons Beckham is no longer with the Giants.
Barkley developed his own aura even with Beckham stationed only a few lockers down the line. Barkley saw the hubbub swirling around all things Odell, saw Beckham get paid then saw him shipped out. This could have been a seminal moment for Barkley, a lesson in what to do, what not to do and how things work. He says it was not, because he already knew.
“I didn’t need the Odell trade to update me on the business of the NFL,’’ Barkley told The Post this summer.
A lesson kicked in the second day Barkley was at the team facility for rookie minicamp. He was talking in the hot tub with Mike Jones, an undrafted defensive back from Temple, and the conversation drifted to becoming fathers. Barkley had a newborn daughter, Jones had a young child, as well.
“And boom, the next day he was gone,’’ Barkley said. “This is the way you provide for your family and stuff like that. That’s when it took to me, I was like ‘Wow.’ I didn’t need the Odell trade to open my eyes to the business of the NFL. Odell’s not the only one to be traded. There’s been multiple people in the NFL that have been traded, been released, been cut. Garrett Dickerson has been cut, signed, cut signed here three times.’’
The roster machinations involving Dickerson, a 23-year old undrafted tight end, are not the same as parting ways with a superstar like Beckham.
“You’re right,’’ Barkley said. “For instance, at some point it will happen to everybody. You get traded or get cut. Adrian Peterson, he was with the Minnesota Vikings, he did a lot of hard work over there. Peyton Manning, got let go from the Colts at one point. Obviously the [neck] injury, but Peyton Manning, won multiple Super Bowls, broke multiple records. That’s the nature of the game.
“That’s why you got to go out and cherish every moment you can because the game can be taken from you or anything can happen. That’s why I come with the mindset to try to get better every single day and push my teammates to try to get better.’’
For now, it is inconceivable Barkley not finishing where he started. People change. The Giants hope Barkley becomes more of what he already is. This is why he is a captain, joining Eli Manning and Nate Solder on offense, Alec Ogletree and Antoine Bethea on defense, and Zak DeOssie and Michael Thomas on special teams.
“The players voted on who they want to be their captains, and I am in total agreement with them,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “They chose wisely.’’
They chose Saquon.
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