A few minutes before his conference call with Philadelphia reporters after getting drafted by the Eagles, Miles Sanders took a pretty special congratulatory phone call from a former teammate.
Saquon Barkley hit him up.
“He called me probably just a couple minutes ago,” Sanders said around 10:30 on Friday night. “Just saying congrats and stuff. He’s looking forward to that two-game matchup each year and I told him I’m looking forward to it too.”
Not only was Barkley one of Sanders’ teammates at Penn State, he was the reason Sanders spent so much time on the bench during his first two college seasons. Barkley was a superstar at Penn State and became the No. 2 overall pick to the Giants a year ago, which meant Sanders had to wait his turn.
Now, the two friends and former teammates will get to face each other twice per season for at least the next few years for their respective NFC East foes. They’re good friends, but a little competitive too.
“Very competitive,” Sanders said. “He called me and the first thing we really talked about were those two games each year. I can’t wait. Same division and everything.”
While it would be unfair to compare Sanders to Barkley, who is widely considered a generational talent, Sanders certainly held his own in 2018, when he finally took over as Penn State’s lead running back. In his junior season, Sanders rushed for over 1,200 yards with nine touchdowns and added another 139 yards as a receiver.
The Eagles fell in love with him during the pre-draft process and they entered Day 2 hoping Sanders would still be available when they took him at 53. Sanders had a lengthy visit to the NovaCare Complex in March and during it spent around 1-2 hours with Duce Staley, who put him through a few tests that Sanders apparently passed with flying colors.
Sanders is the first running back the Eagles have taken in the second round since LeSean McCoy back in 2009. Coincidentally, McCoy was also taken with the 53rd pick in his respective year. Sanders saw Shady do great things with the Eagles, “But I’m looking forward to doing even better.” That would be a pretty high bar. McCoy is the Eagles’ all-time leading rusher.
We still have months before Sanders’ rookie season begins. And he won’t get to those two matchups against Barkley and the Giants until even later in the season.
• Dec. 9 on Monday Night Football at the Linc
• Dec. 29 at MetLife Stadium in the 2019 regular-season finale
Barkley is coming off a rookie season in which he was named a Pro Bowler and the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. That’s another extremely high bar for Sanders to try to clear.
After saying how competitive he and Barkley are, a reporter asked Sanders, “So you’re better than him?”
Sanders started to laugh. The reporters in the room joined him.
“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s definitely …”
And then the call cut out.
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