Ex-Penn State RBs Miles Sanders, Saquon Barkley friendly rivals again
Miles Sanders patiently waited his turn behind Saquon Barkley for two years instead of transferring out of Penn State to a football program that could have used his considerable skills right away.
That’s just the kind of player and person Sanders is.
“Coming out of high school, I was a five-star recruit, highly recruited,” Sanders, a Woodland Hills graduate, said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I was expecting it to be a 1-2 punch type of situation when I got there. It obviously wasn’t that.
“But just learning from Saquon, picking his brain, how he thinks, how he learns, how he prepares for games, helped me become a better player on and off the field.”
Now that Sanders has followed Barkley into the NFL — and the NFC East — as a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, their friendly rivalry will enter a second chapter. Sanders’ Eagles and Barkley’s Giants will meet a minimum of two times per season.
Barkley was one of the first people Sanders heard from Friday night after the Eagles drafted him.
“He called me a couple of minutes ago just saying congrats and stuff,” Sanders said in a conference call with reporters. “He’s proud of me. He’s looking forward to that two-game matchup each year and I told him I’m looking forward to it too.
“The first thing we really talked about was those two games each season. I can’t wait. Same division and everything. I can’t wait.”
Sanders laughed when asked if he thought he was better than Barkley.
“We’ll see,” he said.
As expected, the Eagles brain trust had nothing but good things to say about Sanders, one of three offensive players they took with their first three picks, despite the availability of what executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman called a “historic” crop of defensive linemen.
“Miles was a staff favorite, a coaching staff favorite, a personnel staff favorite … front office favorite,” Roseman raved. “Really, that guy, he reminded us of some other players we’ve had around here. He has great lateral quickness. He was behind, obviously, a great back in Saquon and really took the opportunity to take it over when he had it.
“We think he’s a special talent and a perfect fit for our offense.”
He also is the first running back the Eagles have drafted before the fourth round since 2009, when they selected Pitt’s LeSean McCoy in the second round, also with the 53rd overall pick.
Before he fielded questions from the media Friday night, Roseman had an opening remark:
“Guess what guys? We got a running back! We draft running backs in Philadelphia,” he said.
The other running backs the Eagles have drafted since McCoy: Charles Scott (2010, sixth round), Pitt’s Dion Lewis (2011, fifth), Stanley Havili (2011, seventh), Bryce Brown (2012, seventh), West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood (2016, fifth) and Donnel Pumphrey (2017).