Saquon Barkley had been preparing himself for this to happen.
In recent interviews, Penn State’s record-breaking running back had talked about the possibility of not being invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and how he was OK with it.
On Monday, it became a reality.
Barkley was not one of the three players picked as a finalist for college football’s most prestigious award. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Stanford running back Bryce Love and reigning Heisman winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, got the call instead.
The finalists were announced on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” by former Heisman winners Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The trophy show will be shown live at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
“If I didn’t get invited to the finals, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it,” Barkley said recently in a sitdown video interview with Sports Illustrated. “I’d be fine, to be completely honest. I still have another game to play this year and finish the season strong. … I’m not really worried about the individual awards. I don’t need a trophy to define me or to define how I play.
“I think I’ve done enough, and I think that I have the respect of my teammates and coaches. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”
Penn State has not had a Heisman finalist in 15 years (Larry Johnson, 2002) and has not had a Heisman winner in 44 (John Cappelletti, 1973).
Mayfield is an overwhelming favorite to claim it himself this weekend, with sportsbooks having stopped taking money on him two weeks ago. Love closed at 8-1 odds, with Barkley in third at 15-1.
Barkley, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Running Back of the Year, remains a finalist for five major awards this month, including two recognizing the nation’s best player — the Maxwell and the Walter Camp.
He also is in the running for the Doak Walker (top running back), the Paul Hornung (most versatile player) and the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football, given to the Big Ten’s top player.
Barkley had been the frontrunner through most of October thanks to a huge performance in a win over Iowa. While his rushing numbers began to dip against defenses looking to stop the run, he still maintained a lead thanks to his versatility, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns while being a major threat as a receiver.
Even if Barkley’s numbers had stayed up, however, it likely wouldn’t have been enough to beat Mayfield, who finished the season season with 4,340 yards passing, 41 touchdowns and just five interceptions while completing 71 percent of his passes.
Barkley has 1,728 yards from scrimmage, 47 receptions, 21 total touchdowns and is second nationally in all-purpose yards per game at 179.5.
Still, the news that he was not a finalist had to come as a disappointment to the junior from Coplay.
“I’m not going to lie to you — that would be special,” Barkley said last month of getting an invitation to New York. “That would be really special because I’d be representing Penn State, I’d be representing myself, I’d be representing my family.”
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse