EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Few players in Giants history had rocketed to superstardom as fast as Odell Beckham Jr. did. In what seemed like an instant, he became a household name and got caught up in the instant access and lack of privacy in the social media age.
There were times the Giants felt like it was too much for Beckham.
They have no such worries about Saquon Barkley, their newest superstar.
The Giants have been convinced that the 22-year-old is the right player for them to build around since long before they made him the No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. They knew he had special ability - "Touched by the hand of God," as GM Dave Gettleman said. But it was his personality, leadership and commitment to the team that really sold them on him.
They don't believe he could ever turn into a me-first player or get too caught up in the trappings of being a single-name star. They don't think he could ever be a diva or a me-first player. They don't worry he could ever get caught up in how great the world thinks he is.
And neither does he.
"That's not who I am," Barkley told SNY on Thursday. "That's not how I was raised. That's not how I was brought up.
"Even if I did ever step outside of myself," he added, "before I did that my momma would slap me upside my head."
That was just one of the topics Barkley addressed in a wide-ranging interview with SNY. What lessons did he learn from watching Beckham handle (or mishandle) his own celebrity? Does he feel the pressure of being the face of the franchise? Can anyone stop him when he's on the field?
He answered those questions and more in Part I of his Q&A with SNY:
SNY: Last year people were expecting a lot, but now you're really famous and the whole world seems to know who you are. Does that change your life, besides the football part of it?
SAQUON BARKLEY: I wouldn't say everyone in the world knows. But people who pay attention to football, I guess you could say they have an idea of me. But no, does it change my life? No. You're in the biggest city and the biggest market in the world. I knew that comes with the territory of being drafted here - being recognized. Am I recognized a lot more often? Yes. But is it annoying to me? No. I just try to take it with a grain of salt, be nice to people that come up to me, because you never know: That 15-second conversation could really have an impact on someone's day. Or life. So I just try to go out there, just be me, stay who I am, and just try to stay in love with the game and not get too focused on the stuff on the outside. Stay focused on the things that matter, and that's winning football games.
SNY: There are a lot of people your age who couldn't handle that kind of stardom. The Giants think you can handle it. What makes you believe you can? What makes you sure you're not going to fall into any traps?
SB: Because that's not who I am. That's not how I was raised. That's not how I was brought up. I guess I have to … not guess … I give credit to my family and my parents and the close ones around me. Even if I did ever step outside of myself, before I did that my momma would slap me upside my head, and my dad would address the situation, my girlfriend would address the situation, my close friends … The people that are close to me in my life are people who actually really matter to me and I really respect their opinions. Even the people in this locker room wouldn't let me get caught up in something like that. So that's what I believe because that's not who I am. That's not my nature. That's not my personality. Why would I change?
SNY: I've never watched anyone rocket to stardom the way Odell Beckham Jr. did here, so he's a great example for you - the good and the bad - of how fame can affect somebody's life. Did you ever talk to Odell about that?
SB: I don't think it was about what stardom was like in this league. But it was just asking him questions about how he handled certain situations, whether it was good or bad. I always respected him for being open and honest with me and kind of taking me under his wing, kind of being like a big brother to me. Even still, he's not here, but we still talk pretty often and check up on each other. But I never really asked him about stardom. Because I kind of felt that a little bit in college. I went to a big school. I was one of the top college players. Obviously it's very different coming into the NFL, but like I said it won't really affect me because I'm not really paying too much attention to it and don't really care too much about it.
SNY: Are there things you can learn from Odell and how he handled it, though? There were things he handled well and things he didn't. What lessons can you take from his experience?
SB: You can learn from everyone. You can learn from everyone's mistakes and everyone's accomplishments. Not just Odell. Anyone in life. I'm a person who asks a lot of questions and who cares about people and tries to actually get to know people - not just what people think they know, but actually get to know them. So I'm very respectful and very thankful to Odell for taking me in as a little brother and looking out for me. But you learn from everyone. It wasn't like I was just personally asking him questions. I learn from everyone. I learn from the mistakes my parents made, mistakes my older brother and sister made, and learn from the great things that they did, too.
SNY: Your team and coach haven't been shy about saying the Giants offense will run through you this year, that you're the guy defenses will have to worry about. It sounds like you like that pressure, right?
SB: It sounds great to me. But at the end of the day, I'm not dumb. I know it's a team game. You could do all you want to try and stop me. Go ahead and stop me. What's stopping me? Not rushing for 400 yards? I'm not in it for the stats. I'm in it to win games. So if your mindset is to try to stop me or take me away from the game, and let everyone else go crazy? I'm going to have a smile on my face and we're going to be winning games. I think that can happen. That's why I love the fact that we have a team-first mentality here, and that we believe in each other and believe in the system. That's why I keep saying we're in store for great things this year. But everyone can go out there and say it. We have to go out there and do it.