The Journey of Pennsylvania greats Miles Sanders and Saquon Barkley
Two kids born in 1997 three months apart and in cities six hours away, Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders were destined for greatness. Barkley was born in the Bronx, New York and Miles Sanders was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through everything they went through both paths lead right back to each other. Both will be 22 when the 2019-20 season starts looking to extend their football legacies to another level.
Miles Sanders also made it more of an eye for an eye match up by choosing to wear jersey number 26 same jersey number as Saquon Barkley. In high school Sanders was an absolute freak of nature. Playing for Woodland Hills high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania he was the face of the city. He was a top 20 prospect, the number one running back in the nation and the number one prospect in Pennsylvania for the class of 2016. Sanders was also the top ranked prospect for the 2016 Penn State recruiting class.
For Woodland hills Sanders rushed for a career total of 4,573 yards and 59 touchdowns. His best season was his senior season when he rushed for 1,523 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average of 11.2 yards per carry. In his first season he was put in a position he wasn’t used to being put in, being second. 2015 top Penn State recruit Saquon Barkley was just starting to shine.
The Barkley family moved to Pennsylvania when Saquon was young where he attended Whitehall high school in Whitehall, Pennsylvania. He had a monster senior season that saw him rush for 1,856 yards while rushing for an average of 8.6 per carry and totaling 31 touchdowns for White hall high school. Barkley was the 13th ranked running back in the nation and second ranked prospect in Pennsylvania by 247 sports. He arrived at Penn state a year before Sanders and was the top ranked Penn State recruit in the 2015 class. Barkley made an instant impact his freshman season rushing for 1,076 7 touchdowns with an average of 5.9 yards per rush.
He not only made an impact, Saquon Barkley evolved to a superstar before our very eyes. His sophomore campaign saw him rush for a college career best 1,496 18 touchdowns with 28 receptions for 402 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns with 14.4 yards per catch. That year Sanders showed just how explosive he was in limited touches. Sanders rushed for 184 yards on 25 carries with a 7.4 per carry average. He caught only two passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. His best game that season was against Rutgers he rushed for 85 yards on 5 carries.
After such a successful 2016 season Barkley was considered a Heisman trophy favorite. Teams stacked the box against him constantly and still he was able to rush for 1,271 yards 18 touchdowns with 54 receptions 632 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sanders that year had 191 yards and 2 touchdowns with a 6.2 yards per carry average. He had a 3 carry 44 yard game against Georgia State plus a 7 carry 42 yard game against Maryland. Barkley entered the 2018 NFL draft after his junior year and went on to become the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft and the 2018 offensive rookie of the year. He rushed for 1,307 11 touchdowns catching 91 passes for 721 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The following year Miles Sanders had a breakout season rushing for 1,274 yards 9 touchdowns with 24 receptions for 139 yards. He gave college football many highlights that year and reminded people why he was the number one running back in his class. His biggest game that season he rushed for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns with a 9.1 yard per carry average against Illinois. Sanders also had games of 162 yards against Michigan State and 159 yards against Wisconsin. He displayed his ability to be dangerous in both the run game and the pass game against Indiana when he rushed for 72 yards and caught 6 passes for 54 yards.
Both running backs that have cross paths many times in their football journey will now play each other twice a year in the NFC east division. Miles Sanders can stay home in Pennsylvania and play 4 hours away for the Philadelphia Eagles. Both were standouts at the NFL combine and if Sanders can have a standout rookie season as some have projected it will open up the door to Penn State being called RBU. This season should be the beginning of a showdown between two dynamic backs who will electrify football fans for years to come. No longer caught in each others shadow now the two elite talents will put on a show at the pro level.