“Goodbye! He! Is! Gone!” That’s what Jack Hamm yelled across the airwaves as Saquon Barkley captivated us one last time with a spectacular 92 yard touchdown run.
“Wow, that number twenty-six… that Saquon Barkwee… is REALWEE fast!” That’s what my four-year-old remarked in our living room as we watched the game together.
I just accidentally called him Saquon Sparkley in conversation, which seems kind of fitting as well.
Have you seen the video of little Gianna expressing her thoughts about Saquon going to a different team and how she doesn’t want Mike Gesicki to be alone? I mean, she pretty much sums up how I’m feeling about the end of this season and our last time enjoying Saquon and all of our seniors “working together to win.”
As we close the record books on this magical season with a Fiesta Bowl win against the Huskies, it feels exactly fitting and woefully amiss to lose a Happy Valley junior-class favorite along with such a beloved group of seniors.
Haven’t we been saying goodbye to him for two seasons now? Watching his back as he runs like lightning toward his goals. Some spirits aren’t meant to be contained. He was bigger than us before he arrived and we’re lucky to have had his greatness pass through our team uniform. We won’t see the likes of another Saquon Barkley again. As Coach Franklin said, he’s an even better person than he is a player. He’s certainly one of a kind.
I’ve written before about the particular sadness of saying goodbye to this group of seniors, and Barkley’s early departure reminds me that it’s not just seniors. This whole team together was something special and we’ll never see them play together the same way again. Together they’ve broken records held for decades–highest scoring average and highest yards per game average since 1994, for example–and numerous individuals have climbed the school records list to the top ten and better. This team’s certainly one of a kind.
Marcus Allen recently expressed his thankfulness toward the Penn State family for his opportunity to play here. His note reminded us that it wasn’t any particular play or player that restored Penn State to greatness because Penn State has never lost its greatness. It’s just what we’ve been roaring forever, especially in the last six years: “The magic of this program is about the ideas that this place was built on and the community that has embraced it.”
And so, right back at you, Marcus. Thank YOU and your teammates for a joy-filled, exciting, unforgettable, magical season. Thank you for the incredible wins and for the heartbreaking losses, too. Thank you for embodying the role of student athlete, especially the thirty-five of you named Academic All-Big Ten honorees (including Blake Gillikin and Cody Hodgens with perfect 4.0s). Thank you for your impressive tackles, touchdowns, and talent. Thank you for your unrivaled hard work and dedication to the ideals we all share, and for always representing us to the highest caliber. Though we may not see you all in Penn State uniforms, you will forever be engraved in our hearts.