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Saquon Barkley top five in NFL Pro Bowl voting

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who became a household name during his tremendous collegiate career at Penn State, continues to attract an expanding spotlight as one of the NFL’s most recognizable young players.

Barkley’s elite football talents, combined with an endearing personality and his NFL landing spot, set the stage for him to become an instant league sensation. Major business brands are hiring him for widespread marketing campaigns with greater frequency, and recent developments suggest those opportunities will continue to pile up for the 21-year-old. 

This is a benefit of bursting onto the scene as a franchise player in the world’s largest sports media market. His rising popularity is also apparent in the latest peek at NFL Pro Bowl voting.

Barkley ranks fourth among all players in votes cast by fans (718,108). He is the No. 2 vote-recipient at running back, behind only Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley (747,516). Quarterbacks Drew Brees (950,818) and Patrick Mahomes (884,888) of the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, lead the way.

Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed Dec. 18, and fan voting continues through Dec. 13. Participants are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. The annual showcase event occurs Jan. 27 — one week before Super Bowl LIII — at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

Barkley, batting with Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, enters the final stretch of his first professional campaign with plenty of momentum, in Pro Bowl voting and otherwise.

He has filled the stat sheet through 12 games, totaling 954 rushing yards (4.9 per carry), 602 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. His 74 receptions are tied for second-most among NFL running backs.

Barkley, selected second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft following a three-season stay at Penn State, earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week recognition after a Week 11 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which he tallied a career-high 142 rushing yards and three touchdowns. It was the first of three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Barkley finished 11 of his first 12 NFL regular season games with 100-plus total yards. The lone exception was a 94-yard output in Week 7 against the Atlanta Falcons.

His success is a substantial silver lining to an otherwise underwhelming Giants season. New York has won three of its last four games — thanks in large part to Barkley’s efforts — but carries a 4-8 record overall and faces uncertainty regarding the future at quarterback, where soon-to-be 38-year-old Eli Manning remains the starter.

Barkley left an indelible mark on the Penn State football program while establishing a dazzling highlight reel and several team records. He sits atop all-time Nittany Lions lists for rushing touchdowns (43), total touchdowns (53) and all-purpose yards (5,538).

“He is a once in a lifetime-type player with his work ethic, football IQ and athletic prowess,” Penn State coach James Franklin said in a draft-day athletic department release.

Last week, in a first-person story published on The Players’ Tribune, Barkley shared plans to complete his PSU degree.

“And when I do,” he wrote. “I’m going to walk across that stage, hold my degree up high, and then go home and hang it on my wall to show my daughter that I accomplished something great. To show her that daddy is much more than just a football player.”

Barkley and New York next travel to play the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.

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