Limited in the preseason, Saquon Barkley will finally have his chance to shine and believes "anybody in their right mind that knows sports" can see Big Blue has "the pieces to be great."
"I think this season could be a special season," the Penn State product told SNY while discussing the "honor" of being part of Pepsi's Rookie of The Year campaign TV commercial, in partnership with Circle K.
In a wide-ranging interview, Barkley opened up about preparing for his regular season debut, dealing with fame, routinely challenging teammates to "Rock, Paper, Scissors," why he'd want a career like Kobe Bryant and more, ahead of the Giants opener 1 p.m. Sunday against the Jaguars.
And check out Barkley's new commerical here:
Q: How are you preparing for Sunday?
That's the interesting part, because I'm still trying to figure out the whole process and my routine. This is my first chance to actually get to do what you get to do in preseason. Obviously I didn't get to play as much as I'd like to have played. I've been practicing really well, actually. My hamstring feels great. I'm excited to get after this week.
I'm going to watch film, break down film, make sure that I'm as ready as I can be mentally for the game and start doing that routine. Start finding out when I want to get a little extra workout in, get a little extra conditioning in, when to get a cold tub, when to get a hot tub. Start figuring that out so I can get that routine that's going to last me the whole year.
Q: You and Sam Darnold have brought plenty of excitement to New York football. Do you think your names will always be linked?
I definitely think we'll always be kind of connected in some way. That's kind of how it even was in college. Both of our teams played really well in the Rose Bowl; we both had great performances in the Rose Bowl, also.
I think it kind of has to be that way, because we were in the same draft class. It's how I'll always be talked about with the likes of Baker (Mayfield), Bradley Chubb, all those guys. It's how the world works, especially in the draft. I know Sam, got to know him a little better throughout this draft process, and he's a great dude. He's a heck of a player, and I just wish nothing but success for him.
Q: So, what's the deal with Rock, Paper, Scissors? The cameras caught you playing with Odell Beckham Jr. on the bench during the last preseason game.
I do play Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot a lot, especially with Will Hernandez. I actually kick his butt a lot in that game. I saw the video. They've got OB and me on it, so next time I see him, I definitely gotta challenge him to another game.
It's typically best out of three, lose and do 10 pushups. I don't know if the camera got that part, but I had to do 10 pushups afterward. And I beat Shep after that.
Q: I was curious because I've read about Rajon Rondo and his obsession with Connect Four…
I'm serious, but I'm actually ridiculous at Connect Four. And I'd love to challenge Rondo at Connect Four. Get a couple of cameras there.
Q: Beckham recently said sometimes he feels 'like a zoo animal.' How will you find a balance between a public and private life?
With fame, obviously that just comes with the territory with this profession out there in the media and in a city like New York. It definitely could get crazy and overwhelming, especially for a guy like Odell. But the advice that I was given on how to handle that is 'stay true to yourself.' Keep your focus on the things that are important and not focus on outside factors that don't really matter.
Q: With that in mind, what's your philosophy on engaging with fans?
The way I try to interact with fans is the chances I do have to interact with them, I try to be nice to them, try to take pictures, because you never know - that picture, that signed autograph could change someone's day, could change someone's life. It sounds crazy when you say 'someone's life,' 'someone's year,' but that's the reality that we have as athletes - the impact that we're able to have on people. I would definitely not be doing justice to people and to my family if I don't try to do that. I want to be a person where I can have an impact on this world and on other people and it starts with stuff like that.
Q: Did you have a memorable interaction with an athlete growing up that had that kind of impact on you?
No. My first NFL game I've ever been to was last year at a Steelers game. My first college game (as a fan) was the one I played in - my first one ever. I really wasn't put in positions to (be around) athletes and stuff like that. And I never really was like that, like, 'Oh yeah, I really want to get an autograph from that person.' I never really was like that. But like I said, I am aware of that impact that you have on people.
Q: But now you've been able to interact with some celebrities. Who are some big names you haven't met yet but want to?
Kobe Bryant. That's an easy one. Never got to meet Kobe. I'm a huge Kobe fan - not just him as a player but his mindset, the Mamba mentality, the way he carried himself, the game, the way he worked on his craft. Obviously basketball and football are two different sports but that's something that I'd like to have, that same impact on his team, that same mentality, add that to my game.
Drake. I've talked to him over Facetime, but I've never met him in person. Michelle Obama, I think that would be pretty cool to meet her. If Michael Jackson was alive that would definitely be my go-to pick there also.
Q: What's the best advice you've gotten so far and from whom?
The best advice that I've gotten from multiple people, family and friends: staying true to who you are, believe in the little things, continue to work on the little things, control what you can control.
Definitely also my running backs coach, Coach (Charles) Huff. He's not at Penn State anymore, he went to Mississippi State. I stay in contact with him every single day, and he always challenged me. Almost every time we talk, he gives me great advice, not only to keep myself as a great football player, but to continue to challenge myself as a person, to continue to challenge myself to grow, to continue to challenge myself to have impact and to stay true to who I am.
You're here for a reason. It's not an accident. It's not an accident that you were picked in the first round; it's not an accident that you're playing for the Giants. You're here for a reason, and what got you there? That's what you've got to sit back and ask yourself - and that's the hard work you put in.
Q: What are some passions you'd like to pursue outside of football, now or someday?
I'm still trying to figure that out. I think I'm young, and I've got a lot of time to figure that out. I'd love to be in the sports world my whole life. I love talking; I'd love being an analyst. But definitely football right now, first and foremost, is the most important thing to focus on.
Q: Finally, heading into the Giants opener, what message would you want to give to fans?
My message to Giants fans would be that it's a long season, and we do have the pieces to be great. We have the challenge to be great. I think if you look on paper, anybody in their right mind that knows sports, that knows football, would agree with that.
Like Nate (Solder) told me the other day, it's about being consistent, coming in and doing the little things right. I feel like if we can do that, I feel like we're going to have a great year. But every team feels like they're going to have a great year. We've just got to do a little things differently than the other teams and play a little bit better than that team on that day.
I think this season could be a special season. I'm truly excited for it. I hope that Giants fans are there and supportive, and hopefully we can put on as how for them.