And with the 1st pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns…continued to do Cleveland Browns-things (my apologies to any Browns fans out there). With the 2nd pick of this year’s draft, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was unanimously crowned the newfound King of New York and immediately took the Big Apple by storm. On Thursday night, the New York Giants, as expected, made the biggest splash of this year’s draft and brought SuperQuon home to where it all began before the Barkley family moved to Coplay, PA when he was 5.
By Friday afternoon his #26 Giants jersey had already set a record for most jersey sales by a new draftee. Including signing bonus, his first contract is expected to fetch in the range of 31-million with a 21-million signing bonus; rivaled only by the 36-million Adrian Peterson commanded as a rookie. He was the first Nittany Lion drafted in round one since Jared Odrick in 2010 and the highest pick since Courtney Brown and Lavar Arrington went first and second in the 2000 draft. He becomes the 11th Nittany Lion running back overall to be drafted in the first round and is already in NYC getting down to business as the new face of the NFL, NIKE, Gatorade, Bose, and who knows what else.
Barkley was far from alone in this year’s draft as half man, half machine tight end Mike Gesicki became a Miami Dolphin with the 42nd pick in the second round. Safety Troy Apke and all-time receptions leader DaeSean Hamilton were fourth-round picks by the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos respectively and hit-man Marcus Allen had a homecoming of sorts as the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him up in the fifth. Labeled a sleeper pick in this year’s draft by some, cornerback Christian Campbell rounded out this year’s haul of Nittany Lions in the NFL Draft by also going in the fifth to the Arizona Cardinals.
In the immediate aftermath, cornerback Grant Haley joined King ‘Quon with the N.Y. Giants as a free-agent signee. Guard Brendan Mahon was signed by the Carolina Panthers as was place-kicker Tyler Davis by the Buffalo Bills. Defensive Tackle Parker Cothren joins Allen in Pittsburgh and both linebacker Jason Cabinda and wideout Saeed Blacknall head west to the Oakland Raiders as of this writing with a few more of our boys sure to be invited to pro camps as well.
And just like that, Saquon and our other Mighty Lions have officially left the loving arms of Nittany Nation as they embark upon the next phase of their lives. The older I get, the harder it gets to let them go, but as begrudgingly as it is, it is with fond memories and a ton of pride that we watch our Lions shine their light on the big stage of the NFL. No one knows what their futures hold, no matter how much of a sure thing any of them may be, but it’s safe to say no matter what life throws at them, they will always have a home in Happy Valley.
The off-season has now moved into full gear, friends. Blue-White is in the rear-view mirror, the draft has finally come and gone, classes are out, graduation waits for some, and we all look forward to the warm months of summer. I’m not wishing the offseason away by any means but before we know it, pre-season previews will dot the landscape and another wave of Nittany Lions will be making their way onto NFL radars as we all debate again who goes when and where. Till then, Nittany Nation!