There were moments in the 24 hours leading up to the 2000 NFL Draft when Penn State legend LaVar Arrington had to remind himself that it wouldn’t be like this for long.
“Midnight of draft day like you’re now there and the draft is going to happen. It starts to move really, really, really, really slow,” said Arrington, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 draft. “You gotta be prepared to have those moments where you’re looking at the digital clock like, ‘Man.’ ”
It’s all part of the process that Saquon Barkley will experience within the next 48 hours in Arlington, Texas, where he’s slated to be on hand Wednesday afternoon for a youth football event. On Thursday the waiting game will continue, officially at 8 p.m. when the Cleveland Browns are on the clock.
“I don’t think about getting my name called No. 1, I think about getting my name called period,” Barkley said last month at Penn State’s pro day. “That’s going to be a moment you think about the rest of your life. Whether you play two years or you play 12 years in the league, no one can take that from you.
“Being able to go up there and shake the commissioner’s hand and hold your jersey … I am wondering how I’m going to react to that. Hopefully I’m not a crybaby up there. … That’s going to be a special moment and I’m definitely looking forward to being able to cherish that moment with my family.”
The moments leading up to Barkley walking across the stage at AT&T Stadium will include him being in the green room with his family. That’s where memories are made, but it’s also where cameras crowd in and emotions pour over as former college players have their childhood dreams come true.
For everything that’s prepared them in the lead-up to this moment — the camps, workouts, college recruiting, Signing Day, bowl games, championships, NFL combine, pro days — this night is completely out of their hands.
“There’s no advice you can give because I can’t simulate what he’s going to feel,” Arrington said. “I know what I felt, but I can’t simulate what I felt. Just try to enjoy it the best you can.”
Barkley is a consensus top-5 pick in a draft class, but trades to either get him or whoever a team views as a franchise quarterback could make his night more stressful. It only takes one team to fall in love with a player, and while Barkley may be viewed by some as the best player in the draft, what the Browns do at No. 1 and what the do Giants at No. 2 will determine whether Barkley is in the green room for more than a half hour. If both select quarterbacks, would he land with the Jets at No. 3 or the Browns at No. 4?
Barkley has answered rounds of questions since January about whether he sees himself in Cleveland helping revive a franchise or with the Giants — or his dad’s beloved Jets.
“I just hope that whatever team drafts me I can come in and provide some type of spark,” Barkley said last month when 5,000 people gathered for a parade in his hometown. “Whether that’s a leader or whether that’s doing exceptional things on the field.”
Penn State hasn’t had a player drafted in the first round since 2010 when Jared Odrick was chosen 28th overall. The last Penn State running back to go No. 1 overall was Ki-Jana Carter in 1995.
Barkley initially didn’t plan on attending the draft, but with encouragement from his mom, who told him he “needed to be a little selfish,” he opted for the full experience. Now, with his daughter’s birth Tuesday night that, too, will be a big part of a memorable few days.
So now he’ll wait, just like the other 21 players with him in the green room — just like all those NFL stars who’ve done so before him.
“If Saquon goes to New York, forget about it man, forget about it,” said Arrington, who ended his career with the Giants. “He’s a great-looking kid, he’s an awesome personality and he’s the right type of personality to go to a market like New York because he won’t allow the glitz and the glam of that big city to knock him off of his focus. He will thrive.
“To be in that type of market, signed to Roc Nation, good-looking kid, he’s got a great personality — oh, did I already say that? Yeah, because he has that much [personality] where it’s worth repeating. He’s the safest pick in that top five.”