Star Giants running back Saquon Barkley finds some open space for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What drove you during the darkest moments of your rehab and what drives you now?
A: Same thing. I want to be great. I want to leave a legacy. You talk about “Once a Giant, always a Giant,” I want my name up there. I want to be mentioned with one of the Giants greats or with one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. I feel like I have the talent, God blessed me with that. So that’s been my mindset, that’s been the thing that got me through, and it’s gonna continue to push me. That’s something I want to do, I want to be special. I want to leave a legacy, I want to win championships, that’s some things I want to accomplish in my career. So when you have that in mind, the little ups and downs that go through your career, you keep that main thing in focus, and it’s always gonna keep that drive and always gonna push you.
Q: Eli Manning was famous for “Once a Giant, only a Giant.” How would you feel about following in Eli’s footsteps when it comes to “Once a Giant, always a Giant?”
A: That’s kind of the saying that’s been in New York and New York Giants since 1925, “Once a Giant, only a Giant.” I know Eli put a little different word into it. For me personally, I will always love to be a Giant for the rest of my career. Not only just because this is one of the best organizations to play for and just the people in the building from top to bottom and the way they treat people — in the weight room, and the training staff, coaches, the lunchroom, everywhere. You have guys come from all around the league, they have nothing but great things to say about the people in the building. The friendships and relationships I was able to develop and will continue to develop throughout my career, those are things that make this place so special. I want to be a part of that for a very long time, and also bring a winning culture back to the city and to this franchise.
Q: Does that serve as extra incentive for you given that this is not the regime that drafted you and your contract is up after this year? Do you want to make it obvious to them that Saquon Barkley belongs in a New York Giants uniform with a new contract?
A: I can’t control that. Only thing I can control is go out there and be me and make the plays that come my way and try to be a leader. That’s not my main focus. My main focus is to take it one day at a time. If I do that, and take care of the little things, I feel like the rest will take care of itself.
Q: How much are you looking forward to showing Giants fans on Sunday the best Saquon Barkley maybe they’ve ever seen?
A: That don’t really go into my mind. I don’t really don’t focus on that. I’m focused on going out there and trying to show the Giants fans a team that they could be proud of again, try to continue to build a winning culture.
Q: How does your on-field mentality now compare to the past couple of years?
A: Just confidence. Confidence within myself, confidence in my body, knowing that I have the strength and capability to do whatever I want. That was the difference the last couple of years, not really saying second-guessing yourself, but you know, you tell your body to do one thing and it’s not responding to the way it usually would, just the disconnect between mental with your body.
Q: What would a rushing title mean to you?
A: A rushing title for me really wouldn’t mean too much, to be honest. I feel like, at the end of the day, you only accomplished that rushing title with the help of your offensive linemen, help of your coaches. So if I were able to do that, that’s more of a team achievement. Obviously we know we had a great Week 1, but we gotta stack ’em together, and we’re not even looking too far.
Q: I’ve got you down for 90 catches this year.
A: As long as I can be out there and try to help my team win games and be healthy, that’s the only thing I really focus on.
Q: When you were drafted, you said you were not a running back, you were a weapon. Do you still stick by that?
A: Yeah, I still stick by that. I feel like whatever the team needs me to do I can do it. I really believe that. If they need me to return kicks, I can return kicks. If they need me to run down on kickoffs, I can run down on kickoffs, too. I truly believe that at the end of the day, when it comes to Sunday, I just want to win games, just want to continue to have that competitive spirit, that competitive mindset. That’s never gonna change.
Q: What do you remember about your first Opening Day in 2018?
A: I remember being a little nervous, obviously, but also being appreciative like, “Dang, like it’s actually here, like I’m playing in the NFL, something I dreamed as a little kid.” We didn’t get the win, we lost to Jacksonville, but I remember my first touchdown, just how electric it was in there.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Giants having 10 captains?
A: I love it. The more the merrier. But at the end of the day, you have that “C” on your chest or you don’t, whether you’re not one of those 10 guys, we still have multiple other guys who are leaders, who are veterans in the league.
Q: Captain-wise, let’s start with Andrew Thomas. What makes him a Captain?
A: He don’t get noticed enough how special, how talented he is. Me personally, I could see just the growth, not just only through his play, but within film, within meetings, within the huddle.
Q: Xavier McKinney?
A: He’s kind of becoming the spot, the guy who’s bringing the energy, the guy who’s bringing us all up, he’s a great vocal leader. Obviously he leads tremendously within the weight room, on the field, heckuva player. But he always knows when to say the right things. He was a big reason going into the halftime speaking and getting us in rallying together.
Q: Leonard Williams?
A: Leo, Big Cat. All the guys that are voted … they’re heckuva players, but they come in every single day and they come to work, and that don’t go unnoticed at all. And then also you just add on being a vocal leader. He can take over a game at any moment. He’s that special.
Q: Sexy Dexy, Dexter Lawrence?
A: He can light up a room, obviously, with how big he is, but with his smile. All these guys, they’re competitors, and I’m honored to be a Captain alongside of ’em.
Q: Daniel Jones?
A: I can’t really say enough about D.J. Just his mentality and his work ethic, first one in, last one out. The way he pushes not only myself, but all other teammates. Also just no panic. … We had a drive where we had a negative play, but he didn’t panic. Everybody was like, “We can’t wait till we get the ball again, we know we’re gonna find a way to get down there and get in the end zone.”
Q: Cam Brown?
A: I’m really happy for him. He’s a heckuva player. He hasn’t got his chance yet really on defense, but special teams, he’s been making plays throughout his career, and knowing him from Penn State when he was 18, 17 years old, I see the leadership roles that he grew into, and he’s gonna continue to grow into.
Q: Graham Gano?
A: All these guys, none of ’em are selfish at all, they’re all selfless.
Q: Casey Kreiter?
A: You could really see he took more of a leadership role this year, calling meetings, calling extra meetings, make sure the guys are on their P’s and Q’s.
Q: Julian Love?
A: Seeing his role grow with special teams and within the defense. Come in as corner and having to change and do whatever the team asks him to do and try to play every position he can.
Q: Your 4-year-old daughter Jada Clare, tell me about her personality.
A: She kind of runs the household right now, and she knows it. She makes being a dad cool.
Q: Was she an inspiration during your rehab?
A: Yeah, not just rehab, but just everything in life. She puts everything in perspective. At the end of the day, it’s just a game, even though I’m very passionate about it. No matter what, if I score a 2-point conversion against Tennessee, or if I drop a game-winning touchdown one day and I come home and I know my daughter’s gonna have a smile on her face … “Hey Daddy,” and gives me a kiss.
Q: How has fatherhood changed you?
A: It made me grow up a lot earlier. You’re not just doing something for yourself.
Q: What do you like best about this team?
A: We’re still figuring each other out. You can’t just get too focused on Week 1, but you could see the grit that we have, the competitive mindset that we have not quitting. When we got to the locker room, we were down 13-0, and you can ask anybody in the locker room, there wasn’t a, “Here we go again.” There wasn’t a, “Dang, we’re not gonna win this game.” We really truly felt like we were gonna win that game.
Q: What do you like best about this offense and what do you like best about coach Brian Daboll?
A: Not just only Dabs, but all the coaches … with this offense, it can change throughout weeks. … Week 1, we were able to run over 200 yards. But this week it could be 400 passing yards, the run game might not be that active and is more focused on help setting up play-action. I feel like what we can be is a very good complementary football team, not just only offense but all three phases, having each other’s back. At the end of the day, I feel like that’s the best recipe for success.
Q: Did you set personal goals for this year?
A: No, my personal goal was just to come in every single day, try to be the best version of myself, try and get better every single day.
Q: How proud of yourself are you for overcoming what you’ve had to overcome?
A: I haven’t overcome nothing yet to be honest. It was a heckuva start, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much more I want to do, there’s so much more I want to accomplish. And I know with the right mindset and the help of my teammates, I’ll be able to accomplish that.