MOBILE, Ala. — Saquon Barkley, during a sensational rookie season, admitted he did not immediately feel comfortable carrying himself as a leader in the locker room. As the youngest player on the entire roster, Barkley waited until the yards and touchdowns arrived before he unveiled his true personality to his teammates.
Barkley’s former quarterback at Penn State smiled when he heard this.
“The first time he stepped into our locker room, he kind of emerged as a leader, especially as a true freshman,” Trace McSorley said at the Senior Bowl. “It’s something that’s just kind of a part of him, it’s who he is. You saw him take that role and step into it, I don’t know if it was seamless or not, but it seemed from the outside that a lot of those guys on the [Giants] respect him and guys respond to him. It’s been awesome seeing him take over that role and become one of the leaders of the team in his first year.”
McSorley is beyond getting surprised by anything Barkley does. And so, the 1,307 rushing yards, the 11 rushing touchdowns, the 91 receptions for 721 yards and four more touchdowns, the hurdling over defenders, it all was part of the package that was prepared and packed in State College, Pa., and unwrapped with the Giants.
“Being around him for as long as I was, he shocked me every day in college,” McSorley said. “I got to see everything, so by the time he was surprising everyone else I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s about right.’ It’s just awesome to see him continue to get better. I think people are saying, ‘How can this kid get better?’ and he just does.”
The two were and remain close. Barkley is quick to support McSorley on social media — this week, when a tweet mentioned skepticism by NFL scouts about McSorley’s size, Barkley responded by tweeting, “LOL just watch.”
The 6-foot, 203-pound quarterback can use all the good vibes he can get. He was a fierce competitor in college who will be challenged to show he is big enough and his arm is strong enough to make it in the NFL. Raiders coach Jon Gruden, the coach of the North team, pegged McSorley as, “Not a big quarterback but a tough guy, he’s got a lot of Rich Gannon, Jeff Garcia in him. Bulldog, fighter-type quarterback.”
McSorley said he met with two Giants scouts and knows this week in practices and during Saturday’s game it will be important for him to dispel some of the doubts, which are all based on possible physical limitations. His production at Penn State was exemplary. In 46 games, he threw 77 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions and rushed for 1,697 yards and 30 touchdowns, displaying toughness and grit every step of the way.
“Off the field, I want to show them I am someone who can be trusted, I’m not going to embarrass an organization or embarrass a family,” McSorley said. “I think that’s a big thing, as a quarterback, that’s big, having that trust. On the field that I can lead guys, I’m gonna come in and compete and [show] that I can make all the throws, I got a strong arm and I can put the ball in the right place.”