Growing up in Pennsylvania, Saquon Barkley played football and basketball with his older brother Rashard. Rashard and his friends, a decade older than Saquon, did not play down to the irrationally ambitious kid's level. "My brother was like, 'No, don't take it easy on him,'" reminisced Barkley. Instead, Saquon took his lumps until he was finally big and tough enough to start winning. Now 22, Barkley is the one dishing out the punishment as a 233-pound running back for the New York Giants. After three stat sheet-stuffing years at Penn State, he was picked second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Being a high pick meant playing for a bad-- ahem, a "rebuilding" team. The Giants have not won a playoff game since 2012, when they won the Super Bowl what must feel like eons ago to their faithful fans. Under new head coach Pat Shurmur, the rebuilding process includes a new emphasis on camaraderie between players. Toward this end, he introduced a ping-pong table to the practice facility. Not simply there for idle leisure, the coach had players compete in a single elimination tournament. With teammates like Golden Tate training with Olympic table tennis player Wei Wang, level of competition was daunting. Barkley soon had to face facts: he was not the best. Not even close. Neither is he the type to give up. Just like when he was a kid getting tackled by his brother's teenage friends, Barkley got right back up and went back to work. Barkley began practicing table tennis in earnest, even consulting YouTube for tutorials on technique. He has since risen to the upper echelons of the Giants' table tennis players. "That's just how I am when it comes to sports," said Barkley. "When I set my mind to something, and I want to be good or great at something, I work towards it. That's the only thing I know helps me. I've seen positive impact with that in my life." The practice has also borne fruit in that other sport he plays, honing his reflexes and fast-twitch muscles to elevate him among the elite running backs in the NFL. In tonight's game against the Giants' NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, Barkley exploded for a career-best 65-yard run. What does the future hold for this talented and driven young star? Once he rises to become the undisputed locker room ping-pong champion, will he rest on his laurels or seek greater challenges? Stay tuned!
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