Penn State's Barkley motivated by titles, not Heisman

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

UNIVERSITY PARK — A lot of people talk about Saquon Barkley as a leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy this year.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is coming off a standout sophomore season and is a preseason AP American.

Saquon Barkley isn’t one of them.

Oh, Barkley, who will be a junior running back at Penn State, is aware that he holds a prominent place in many Heisman discussions.

Frankly, it would be pretty hard not to.

He just isn’t all that interested in individual accomplishments.

Not enough, at least, to use them as motivation as he prepares for the 2017 season.

“I’m just really not one of those type of guys who cares about individual achievements, so I really get no motivation at all [from them], really,” Barkley said Wednesday. “I self-motivate.

“I don’t need awards, or seeing where I’m projected to be, if I’m a Heisman candidate or if I’m a Big 10 MVP candidate. I really don’t need that to motivate myself.

“I’m so invested in myself and this team that I want to be the best I can be to try to help this team to win games.”

Wednesday’s practice was the fifth this spring for Barkley and his teammates, and coach James Franklin reiterated that Barkley and a select few established players are not getting as much work as most others.

“Running back is a group where we have a lot of depth, and we have a lot of talent,” Franklin said. “It’s not like Saquon’s going to get a bunch of live reps during spring ball. We kind of know who he is.”

No surprise there. When a guy rushes for 1,496 yards — including 46 carries for 10 or more yards — as a sophomore, he’s kind of tough to forget.

Barkley might like to be more involved in these workouts, but sees an upside to spending time as an observer.

“Obviously, you want to compete … but it makes you look at the game differently,” he said. “You can see stuff that you probably wouldn’t see if you were in the game or taking a practice rep.”

Barkley got in a few extra, informal practices recently when he went to Orlando, Fla. with teammates Mark Allen, Marcus Allen and DaeSean Hamilton during spring break.

“We got to visit some stuff down there and got to have fun and spend time with your brothers, but also try to evaluate ourselves and get better, instead of going somewhere else and having fun and partying, stuff like that,” he said.

Working with Prescott: The guys in Barkley’s group had something to talk about when they returned home, because they took part in practices with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

“It was pretty cool,” Barkley said. “It was really cool, actually, to work out with Dak Prescott. I just talked to him, [saw] the knowledge he gained from his first year [as a pro], especially being on a team with guys like Dez [Bryant] and Zeke Elliott.”

Like the Cowboys, the Nittany Lions have championship aspirations for the coming season.

Penn State is the defending Big 10 titlist and, while it won’t play a game that counts until Akron visits Beaver Stadium Sept. 2, Barkley seems pleased with his teammates’ mindset.

“The attitude of our team, I would say, is really good,” he said. “We’re really positive. We’re really competing, pushing each other to be better every single day.

“What’s driving us is our standard that we hold ourselves to … a championship standard.”