One of the (many) pratfalls of social media is posting things you come to regret. Whether it’s something inaccurate or, worse, mean-spirited, it happens to pretty much all of us at some point.
Reporter Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com has had one particular tweet proverbially hanging around his neck for three years, but this week got the chance to take it off.
‘Not sure where he’d fit’
If you’re a Penn State football fan you likely know this story, but for those of you that don’t: in 2015, Dunleavy was the outlet’s Rutgers football beat writer, and on September 19, he was at Beaver Stadium for Rutgers’ game against the Nittany Lions.
It was the third game of the season for Penn State, and the third career game for one of its running backs, freshman Saquon Barkley. In the first half of the game, Dunleavy tweeted: “#PennState RB Saquon Barkley is a former #RFootball commit. Not sure where he’d fit in this loaded [Rutgers] backfield.”
Barkley had 195 yards (on 21 carries) and two touchdowns in the game, the beginning of a college career that ended with him as the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, widely hailed as the most complete prospect in years.
And that tweet has followed Dunleavy, drawing him scorn from Nittany Lions followers. He’s hoping that’s over now.
Barkley was drafted by the New York Giants – and Dunleavy is now the Giants beat reporter for NJ.com. They’ll be spending quite a bit of time together in the next few years.
So Dunleavy recently printed out the tweet on a posterboard and brought it with him to the Giants’ facility. As soon as Barkley saw it, he knew what it was. “The tweet!,” he said.
Barkley had seen it, likely thanks to Penn State’s loyal fans.
“I laughed,” Barkley told Dunleavy. “Obviously people make their opinions and have their comments, and I really never acknowledge it. With tweets, I maybe favorite it or send it to myself as a sidenote, but I do remember seeing this tweet.”
While Dunleavy had doubted Barkley, then-Rutgers coach Norries Wilson hadn’t: he was the first to offer Barkley a scholarship. After Barkley racked up nearly 200 yards against the Scarlet Nights on that September night, Wilson sought him out.
“He hugged me and said, ‘I knew I saw something special in you,'” Barkley recalled. “That touched my heart. If they didn’t give me that start, maybe no one would’ve taken a chance on me. It was off of straight potential. That’s the reason I’m here.”
A fresh start
Barkley didn’t hold a grudge, but Dunleavy is hoping Penn State fans (and maybe even some Giants fans) will stop bringing up old stuff, at least when it comes to that tweet.
So he and Barkley tore up the posterboard with the ill-fated post printed on it, a fresh start for two professionals.
“That was fun. I’ll tell [Penn State fans] to lay off you now,” Barkley tells Dunleavy.
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