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How growing up in Coplay, Pennsylvania, played role in Saquon Barkley signing with Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles RB Saquon Barkley | Introductory press conference
Philadelphia Eagles RB Saquon Barkley | Introductory press conference 11:37

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Saquon Barkley was engulfed into the Philadelphia Eagles long before he played a down for his new franchise. Even if Barkley wasn't an Eagles fan growing up, he got to see how the organization operated through a spectator's eyes. 

Being raised in Coplay, Pennsylvania, had its benefits. Barkley was 10 minutes from Lehigh University, where the Eagles held training camp from 1996 to 2012.

The Eagles developed a generation of fans thanks to spending summers at Lehigh, getting a close look at their favorite players as they prepared for the season. 

Barkley was at Lehigh watching those practices, long before he was a star at Whitehall High School, later Penn State and then the NFL. He would go to watch Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson - the first taste Barkley got of the Eagles' culture. 

"Watching from afar, everything that they're about," Barkley said last week. "The culture here, the fans here. Definitely got super excited about it. Just happy to be a part of this organization." 

Eagles Free Agency Football
Philadelphia Eagle's Saquon Barkley talks to the media during a press conference after signing with the NFL football team, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. Chris Szagola / AP

While going to Eagles training camp wasn't part of the reason Barkley chose the Eagles in free agency, it was part of his connection to Lehigh Valley and his hometown of Coplay.

Playing close to home was something the Eagles offered few teams couldn't. 

"It's a blessing to stay close to home," Barkley said. "It's a blessing every Thanksgiving or Christmas I get to go right to my momma's house, or to my nana's house. My kids can see their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles, their cousins. That was important."

Barkley even asked his mom how long the drive was to the NovaCare Complex for his introductory press conference. His mom said 50 minutes without any traffic congestion on the Schuylkill Expressway. 

No longer will the Barkley family be going east on Interstate 78 to MetLife Stadium. They'll take the Blue Route south on I-476 to the Schuylkill Expressway to watch him play. 

Barkley hasn't had to go far to play football throughout his career. Penn State was just under three hours away from Coplay, while MetLife Stadium was just over an hour and a half. The drive to Lincoln Financial Field won't be 50 minutes, likely an hour and 15. 

Barkley is a Pennsylvania guy through and through. He'll get to spend the prime of his career scoring touchdowns in the state where he became a star. 

Playing close to Coplay was the biggest selling point for Barkley. The Eagles were the perfect fit, in addition to running behind the best offensive line and playing with the best skill position group Barkley's ever encountered. 

"I have the opportunity to come back and stay close to home," Barkley said. "I wanted to do this [play football] since I was a little kid. My dad, my mom, my brothers and sisters can attest to that. That's something I can take pride in."

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