Penn State pro day: Blessings coming soon for Barkley

By Derek Levarse - dlevarse@timesleader.com
His playing days for Penn State are over, but Saquon Barkley remains at the center of attention in State College with the NFL draft a month away. - Gene J. Puskar | AP photo
Penn State’s Mike Gesicki figures to be one of the top tight ends selected in next month’s NFL draft. - Gene J. Puskar | AP photo

STATE COLLEGE — In the next month, Saquon Barkley will receive the two biggest phone calls of his life.

One will be the heads up that he’s about to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. The other will be the heads up that he’s about to become a father.

And if those calls were to come on the same day?

“What happens if the baby’s delivered the same day as draft day?” Barkley said Tuesday with a laugh. “That’s a great question. That’s something that we’re actually a little worried about. But I can tell you if that is the case, I’m taking the first plane back to Scranton.”

That would be close to the home of his girlfriend, Forest City grad Anna Congdon, who announced recently on social media that the couple was expecting.

Odds are, the trickiest scenario won’t come to pass for Barkley, who attended Penn State’s pro day but did not participate in any drills, having already impressed at the NFL combine. Barkley said the baby is due April 14 and the star running back will be drafted in the first round on April 26.

“April’s going to be a big month for me,” Barkley said. “I tweeted out the other day that big blessings were coming my way. A lot of people thought I was just talking about the draft, but I was not only talking about the draft but also my future kid. I’m truly excited.”

Barkley originally planned to stay home in the Lehigh Valley for the draft but was ultimately convinced to attend the event, which will be hosted by the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.

“My mom told me you’ve gotta be selfish a little bit,” Barkley said.

Barkley could end up going anywhere in the top handful of picks, having made his case for No. 1 with his showing at the NFL combine, where he impressed scouts with his workouts — even if they were short of what Barkley and others expected.

“I don’t want Saquon to take this the wrong way,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said, “but I think Saquon had a very average combine, and he finished No. 1 across the board. I know his start wasn’t what he wanted it to be.

“I was very confident that Saquon was going to run a low 4.3 (40-yard dash), and I thought with training, you never know, he may run a high 4.2. I know that sounds crazy. I’ve seen him bench press 225 (pounds) 34 times before. So his numbers were solid, but it wasn’t like — I think he even thought he would do a little bit better.”

Not that he needed to try and top his combine numbers — most notably 29 reps on the bench press and a 4.4-flat time in the 40 — on Tuesday.

Barkley has already proved plenty on the field. Now he has a much bigger job to consider.

“The thing I’m looking forward most to being a dad is trying to be a great role model,” Barkley said. “Set an example for my kid, whether it be a boy or a girl. Hopefully help them have a healthy life, and that’s the most important thing I’m focusing on right now. Continue to grow and be a better father and a better player.”

With Barkley serving in a support role on Tuesday, 20 other players worked out for representatives of all 32 NFL teams inside Penn State’s Holuba Hall facility. At least two general managers — the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kevin Colbert and the Oakland Raiders’ Reggie McKenzie — were in attendance.

Plenty of eyes were on cornerback Christian Campbell, who had opted to heal up and do most of his work on Tuesday rather than at the combine.

He didn’t disappoint, turning in a 41-inch vertical and an 11-foot-3 broad jump, both of which would put him right at the top of all combine participants.

Fellow combine invitee DaeSean Hamilton didn’t run the 40 until Tuesday, and the wideout recorded a time of 4.52 — a bit higher than the 4.47 he was told he got right after the run, but still good enough not to drop him down teams’ draft boards.

“That’s faster than I’ve been running here, so I’m happy,” Hamilton said.

Tight end Mike Gesicki and safety Marcus Allen both said they had heard from one point or another from every NFL team.

Gesicki has gotten some attention from the Philadelphia Eagles, as the Super Bowl champs are losing both of their tight ends behind starter Zach Ertz.

“I’ve got a lot to prove to be in those kind of categories,” Gesicki said of comparisons to Ertz, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. “But in order for me to get there, there’s a lot of hard work and learning to go into it.

“In terms of a talent perspective and my ability to make plays and my athletic ability, I think that’s where they’re comparing me (to Ertz). And in that aspect, I completely agree.”

Of the players who did test on Tuesday, some of the leaders were Campbell and wideout Saeed Blacknall, who posted the fastest 40 time of the day at 4.39 seconds to go with 24 reps on the bench press.

Defensive end Colin Castagna led the bench with 30 reps, while defensive tackle Curtis Cothran put up 25.

After a year away from football, Penn State and Lackawanna College alum Paris Palmer also worked out at the event.

His playing days for Penn State are over, but Saquon Barkley remains at the center of attention in State College with the NFL draft a month away.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_AP1807974644686720183202054913.jpgHis playing days for Penn State are over, but Saquon Barkley remains at the center of attention in State College with the NFL draft a month away. Gene J. Puskar | AP photo

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki figures to be one of the top tight ends selected in next month’s NFL draft.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_AP180797846399372018320175345292.jpgPenn State’s Mike Gesicki figures to be one of the top tight ends selected in next month’s NFL draft. Gene J. Puskar | AP photo
PSU star preparing for draft, fatherhood

By Derek Levarse

dlevarse@timesleader.com

PSU LEADERS

40-yard dash

S Troy Apke`4.34 seconds*

WR Saeed Blacknall`4.39

RB Saquon Barkley`4.40*

CB Grant Haley`4.44*

Bench press

DE Colin Castagna`30 reps

RB Saquon Barkley`29*

DL Curtis Cothran`26

WR Saeed Blacknall`24

Vertical jump

TE Mike Gesicki`41.5 inches*

S Troy Apke`41*

RB Saquon Barkley`41*

CB Christian Campbell`41

Broad jump

CB Christian Campbell`11-foot-3

S Troy Apke`10-11*

LB Jason Cabinda`10-9

TE Mike Gesicki`10-9*

*-recorded at NFL combine