Saquon Barkley made the assumed official on Sunday as the junior running back declared for the NFL Draft, forgoing his final season of eligibility.
“I would like to start off by saying thank you so much for all of the memories that you have helped create over the last three years, whether it be on the football field, in school or in the community,” Barkley said in a statement. “I am forever grateful to you for making my time here so enjoyable. You have been amazing to me through the ups and downs of my career and you will always have a special place in my heart.
His full statement, released by Penn State and on Barkley's various social media accounts continues in full here.
“With that being said, God has blessed me with the opportunity to pursue the dream I have had since I was a little kid of playing in the NFL. I would like to thank God, my family, especially my mom, dad, brothers and sisters, my coaches and teammates, the athletic training and performance enhancements staffs at Penn State, my support system from Whitehall and the Penn State fans who have helped me be in position to have a decision like this. After lots of thought, prayer and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft."
“I hope I have left a lasting impression on this University, football program and community at large. It has been an honor and privilege to be able to call Penn State home and represent the Blue & White and all of the great players who came before me and will follow after me. I will continue to work each and every day to continue to represent Penn State the right way as I move on to the next phase of my life.
“I am aware I am coming up short on getting my degree, but I have made a promise to my mom, dad and Coach Franklin that I will continue to pursue my dream of obtaining a Penn State degree.
“I am so thankful to my family for all of the sacrifices they made to get me in this position. To my teammates and coaches for the last three years, it has been a blessing to call you guys family. I love you guys so much. To the 107k strong, I will miss you and the amazing support you have shown me and the Penn State Football program. We Are!”
The news, less than 24 hours following Penn State's Fiesta Bowl win over Washington, was hardly a surprise. Barkley is expected to be a top 10 pick and while a senior campaign wouldn't have been unthinkable, from a pragmatic standpoint his stock will never be higher.
“Saquon Barkley is a once in a lifetime type of player and it has been an honor to coach him and watch him grow into a fantastic young man,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said.
“Saquon has left a legacy both on and off the field that will long be remembered by the Penn State community. Saquon knows he has some unfinished business in the classroom. Knowing how much it means to him, I have the utmost confidence that he will follow through on his promise and the plan that we have discussed to earn his Penn State degree. As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person and I look forward to watching him achieve his dream of playing in the NFL. We wish him nothing but the best on Sundays and we know that he will make us Penn State proud.”
In the immediate future Penn State will turn to the combo of Miles Sanders and incoming freshman Ricky Slade. Both should prove to be more than serviceable for 2018 and beyond.
Even so, Penn State will no longer be with the services of one of the greatest players to ever enter the program, and with that fact a learning curve will follow.