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Saquon Barkley: Already one of world’s highest-earning athletes

Published June 19. 2019 11:04AM

Although he is just 22 years old and has barely dipped his big toe into his National Football League career, Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants phenomenon from Lehigh County, is already one of the highest earning athletes on the world stage, according to Forbes magazine.

When Forbes listed its top 100 last week, there was Barkley at No. 93 with earnings of $25.8 million. The Giants selected Barkley second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and then signed him to a fully guaranteed four-year, $31.2 million contract.

The graduate of Whitehall High School and star performer at Penn State University did not disappoint in his freshman season on the big stage.

In a year when the Giants finished in the cellar of the NFL east with a less-than-stellar 5-11 record, Barkley led the league in all-purpose yards with 2,028, just the third rookie to ever eclipse 2,000 yards. This helped earn him Rookie of the Year honors.

He had 1,307 rushing yards, second best in the league, which resulted in 11 touchdowns. He averaged five yards a carry. He also caught 91 passes for 721 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per catch, along with four touchdowns.

His longest run from scrimmage was 78 yards, while the longest pass play he was involved in was good for 57 yards.

In setting the Giants’ rookie rushing mark, he passed Tuffy Leemans’ 830 yards, a record that stood for 82 years.

Barkley was named to the Pro Bowl roster, a difficult accomplishment for a first-year player, according to Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur. The 5-foot-11-inch, 233-pound running back also was named first team all pro by The Sporting News and Pro Football Focus.

According to Forbes, “Stardom in the New York market has made Barkley a marketing darling, and he’s already nailed down deals with major brands.”

Forbes lists Barkley’s wealth for 2018 as having come from $21.3 million in salary and $4.5 million from endorsement contracts with Dunkin’, Bose, Nike, Pepsi, Toyota and Visa.

Forbes also pointed out that just five other running backs have higher average salaries than Barkley heading into the 2019 season.

Despite Barkley’s impressive statistics last year, there are still some Giants fans who believe that the team should have picked a quarterback successor to Eli Manning. When asked whether he understood this sentiment, Barkley said he did, but added, “If a Rookie of the Year doesn’t sway that mindset, I don’t know what will.”

Barkley is mentioned in the same breath with NFL superstars Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson, who also had phenomenal rookie seasons.

“He’s had a positive impact on our team,” Shurmur said. “I said it early, and I really believe it: He’s got a generational spirit in terms of how he competes.”

Barkley chose to enter the NFL draft after his junior season at Penn State, where he racked up more than 6,000 all-purpose yards in three years and scored 53 touchdowns (43 rushing, eight pass receptions and two kickoff returns). He also threw a touchdown pass on a trick play.

Forbes’ 10 highest-paid athletes last year were: Lionel Messi, soccer, $127 million; Cristiano Ronaldo, soccer, $109 million; Neymar, soccer, $105 million; Canalo Alvarez, boxing, $94 million; Roger Federer, tennis, $93.4 million; Russell Wilson, football, $89.5 million; Aaron Rodgers, football, $89.3 million; LeBron James, basketball, $89 million; Stephen Curry, basketball, $79.8 million; and Kevin Durant, basketball, $65.4.

Other notables of interest to our readers include: Tiger Woods, golf, 11th, $63.9 million; Bryce Harper, baseball, 23rd, $44.5 million; Nick Foles, football, 36th, $35.8 million; Joel Embiid, basketball, 48th, $32.1 million; C.J. McCollum, Lehigh University grad, basketball, 68th, $28.8 million; and Odell Beckham Jr., football, 85th, $26.5 million.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

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