EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There has been no easing of Saquon Barkley into the spotlight by the Giants, not when GM Dave Gettleman has already hyped him as a Hall of Fame-caliber player who has been "touched by the hand of God." That is a heavy load to place on the 21-year-old's shoulders.
But to Barkley, the second overall pick in the NFL draft, the weight of Gettleman's words and expectations don't feel like a big deal at all.
"I'm so happy that I have a guy that believes in me and believes in my talent," Barkley said. "But it's not really expectations he set for me. It's something he saw on film. He believes in me. He believes I can achieve that one day.
"But if he believes in me and I don't believe in myself and I don't believe in my own expectations and my own goals, I don't get anywhere."
Barkley's road to somewhere -- perhaps even to Canton -- officially began on Thursday night when he arrived for a three-day rookie mini-camp with his new team, one day before his first practice on Friday. And it certainly seemed like his first steps were good. He made a point to arrive on Friday earlier than the rest of the rookies, to show them how hard he planned to work. And he said all the right things -- especially about the hype.
In fact, he embraced the hype without reveling in it. He wants to be everything Gettleman thinks he should be, but he knows the only way to do that is to quickly get to work.
"I don't want to be that guy that thinks he's a high draft pick and he's got it all," Barkley said. "Nothing is given to you. Everything is earned. Have that mindset that you've got to work for every single day, learn every single day, be a student of the game. Work. Be a worker. Hard worker got me here. So continue working my butt off."
That attitude, of course, is part of what the Giants loved about Barkley in the run-up to the draft, and they've been thrilled to hear that from him and see it at work since he arrived. They love the fact that the expectations don't seem to be too big for him. They believe he has a chance to be that rare star who can simultaneously stand out from and blend in with his team.
Still, there's no denying the expectations have been super-sized. Barkley made it clear that he won't let anyone else set his own expectations. Then again, Gettleman isn't exactly just anyone in this equation. Those words - "gold jacket player", "touched by the hand of God" -- have a heavy meaning when coming from his boss.
"That's a great compliment - the No. 2 guy should be a Hall of Famer," Barkley said. "But when you think about it, when you come into the NFL, that's the goal. You want to get a gold jacket. You want to work your butt off to get a gold jacket.
"And 'touched by God' … (Gettleman) got to talk to us yesterday and he said everyone in this room is touched by God. You are. It's true. You have a talent. You're blessed to be able to play in the NFL and be a professional athlete. Not many people can say that. Not many people are able to accomplish that. Not many people have that talent to do that. It's a great compliment."
It is a great compliment. It also has the potential to be a burden -- although if it is, it's one Barkley has chosen to meet head-on. He said he wants to be "completely more than a running back." He wants to do everything and anything his team needs.
And if everyone else expects greatness? Well, he's not too concerned about that, because that's exactly what he expects, too.
"If I follow (the expectations of others) then I'll never become a great player," he said. "It starts with myself. I have to believe in myself, set expectations for myself, set goals for myself and continue to work for those goals."