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The Best Stone Ever: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley Speaks At The Rose Bowl

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The sophomore leader has his mind in the right place.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Wisconsin vs Penn State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley is one of the key players on this amazing Penn State football team. It’s hard to imagine where the team would be without him. Probably not in Pasadena. It’s scary to remember that the likely 2017 Heisman candidate almost went to Rutgers. How that would have changed the fortunes of all those involved, we’ll never know. James Franklin’s legendary sales pitch made a difference. It turns out the Old Bald Coach can sell rocks in a quarry.

Let’s get a look at where Saquon’s head is at leading up to the Rose Bowl.

On the rumor that he has been watching Reggie Bush film:

Ever since we've been announced playing in the Rose Bowl Game, for some reason I could not stop watching Reggie Bush highlights. Obviously, one of the greatest college football players ever and one of the greatest running backs ever to play in college. Just exciting to watch him play and be able to play in the type of game he played in, the Rose Bowl Game, especially when they played Texas in the national championship game.”

“He's a different back, so I just try to be a complete back like him. I felt like he was able to do it all. He could run the ball, pass the ball, catch the ball out of the back field. He was just a threat all around to other teams. As a running back, you want to be an all around back. And that's the goal you try to shoot for.

Concerning the team’s slow starts on offense:

We've been trying to do something in practice the whole year to be honest. Just kind of how we've been playing in the game. I think we just got to start by starting off fast by making a big play, being explosive early.

We've been very explosive in the second half. When we're explosive early, we get a full-time. There's only one time this year where we had a full game. That was Iowa, probably one of our best offensive games as a whole.

So if we can get started early, and this team starts early, so we can't get behind them. They're a good team. Like you said, we've been hottest on the east coast. They've been the hottest team on the west coast.”

Goose Bumps while eating at the Lawry’s Beef Bowl. Has the magnitude of the Rose Bowl stage hit you yet?

“It actually hasn't hit me yet. I think it will hit me when we touch the field, when we get to Pasadena and see the stadium. This game is special.

Last night, we went to this place and ate ribs. The Beef Bowl, what you call it, and they showed film of how tradition, the tradition of this game, how historical it is. I started getting goose bumps. I'm just really excited to be able to play and honored to play and represent Penn State. I think it will be a blast.

Changing his commitment from Rutgers to Penn State:

Funny. Before he offered me, he called me on the phone when he got the job and he told me that, I'm coming to Penn State no matter if he's got to come to my house and knock me upside the head, jokingly.

But the pitch that he sold was, one, he's – I don't know, like my mom said, he could sell you a stone and make you feel like it's the best stone ever.

But he's really good with his words. But he had a coaching staff to help too. He made you feel like you're home. Made you feel like family. And, also, Penn State itself kind of sold to me. The school there, the tradition there, just was kind of a no-brainer to make that switch and come to Penn State.”

On the return of coach Moorhead in 2017:

It means a lot he's able to come back next year. Only one year, we were able to come to the Rose Bowl. Not looking too far ahead, but kind of makes you think like, all right, it's only uphill from now.

So and we have a lot of guys coming back and we're young still. You can't look too far ahead. You got to focus on USC and focus on the game this year. Going out of 2016 – well, it's going to be 2017. But 2016 with a bang.”

Obviously, I would love for everyone to come back, but you've got to look at it as this is their life too. If they feel like that's the best for them to move on, then for them to move on.

But I am excited he's coming back, because, I mean, look where we're at in one year on the offensive side of the ball and we're real young. You can't look too far ahead in the future, kind of just focused on USC, but in the back of your mind, you're like what if? Where can we be next year.”

The process of assessing draft status while at Penn State:

“Well, I mean, they have like an agency come in and talk to us. But it was just not an agency. Our, like, guys, our Penn State guys. And just talk about when that opportunity comes, that they're going to help us out with the resources. But I'm only a sophomore. So I really don't pay attention, like, to all that stuff or get into that.

I feel like, if anything, if you focus on that, you're not going to be able to play to your best capability. So I don't really get focused on that whatsoever or what's going on with my future right now. I'm just focused on being 19 years old, having fun in college, playing for Penn State, enjoying times with my brothers.”

Whether he is a complete back:

“No, I don't think I ever will be in my mind because I think there's always something I can work on, and I'm always trying to find something to work on. So I'm never going to be satisfied until the day I guess I'm done playing football forever.

But, yeah, I mean, I feel like so much stuff I can work on. I feel like there's so much room for improvement. In my personal opinion, I don't think I'm a complete back yet.

“I want to get my feet better. I want to get my catching ability better, pass-wise and pretty much everything, to be honest. I just want to be the best player I can be. And kind of bad I guess because I'm hard on myself and I criticize myself a lot. But I feel like where I want to be, I want to be one of the greats one day. That's how you got to be.”