Saquon Barkley warms up prior to a game in December 2019. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Saquon Barkley: I Would Have Stayed at Penn State with NIL

At the Tribeca Festival, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley reflected on how his Penn State career would’ve been different with NIL.

As we approach one year of the NIL era in college sports, it’s always fun to play the “what if” game with former college or even high school athletes.

On Wednesday, Boardroom and 35 Ventures co-founder and CEO Rich Kleiman moderated a conversation at the Tribeca Festival titled “A Whole New Ballgame: How Sports Is Driving The Creator Economy” with CC Sabathia and Saquon Barkley as the panelists. During the wide-ranging talk, the New York sports stars were asked about NIL and endorsements. Sabathia is dealing with it as a parent. His son, Carsten, will start his college baseball career at Georgia Tech in the fall.

Barkley will soon embark on his fifth NFL season with the New York Giants. The former Rookie of the Year also went back to State College to earn his degree in May.

“The good part is you get to be able to put some money in these kids’ pockets at an early age, and I think that can also help some kids stay in college a little longer,” Barkley told Kleiman.

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Barkley spent three seasons starring at running back for Penn State. He finished fourth in the 2017 Heisman voting — being named an All-American in 2017, and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2016 and ’17 before being selected No. 2 overall by Big Blue in the 2018 draft.

“I know if I was able to have NIL at that time,” Barkley said, “I would’ve loved to stay back another year at Penn State.”

Barkley certainly would’ve made a ton of money during his senior season as a Nittany Lion, though obviously not as much as the reported $15 million he got up front in 2018 from the Giants. He cautioned that if you can get college stars to stay in school an extra year— which we’re seeing in college basketball with players like Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, who will earn more at school than they would have as NBA rookies— there needs to be a class or some sort of educational program where players can learn how to manage their newfound riches.

“When you’re in that spotlight, there’s a lot of people coming at you from different directions, and that can be a bad thing,” Barkley said. “But if you are able to sit down with these kids and teach them and put them in positions to learn from guys like KD, LeBron, and all those guys, I think it can set them up for the future.”

We’ll never know how Barkley’s career would’ve changed had he remained a Penn State superstar for one more season, but we can count Saquon as an example where NIL would’ve greatly benefitted the college game.

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