To call the fans surrounding Penn State running back Saquon Barkley Tuesday evening in downtown State College a "mob" wouldn't be quite fair.
But, given the immense attention surrounding him, an otherwise easy half-mile walk amounted to an hour-long trek down College Avenue. Posing for pictures, chatting and signing autographs for countless fans, the typically sleepy mid-July event turned into an early indicator of the community's loving embrace of the Heisman Trophy hopeful.
The last off the team's blue bus as it rolled down Burrowes and stopped at the corner of College Avenue, Barkley's journey began as expected. With fans having already flocked to that corner, the team personnel and media loitering a dead giveaway of the trip's starting point, Barkley immediately found himself the center of attention as teammates began making their way down the street to hand out posters and pose for pictures themselves.
More than an hour later, wrapping up interviews with a few media members on the other side of town, defensive end Ryan Buchholz realized just how much longer the experience had been for his teammate.
"I kind of feel bad," said Buchholz. "Me and Andre Robinson were walking together and someone said something. It was right when we got off the buses, and me and Andre were like, 'Yeah, let's get out of here' because we knew we were going to get stuck. He just got back."
Though there were plenty of autographs and photo requests to be had by fans young and old alike, everyone it seemed just wanted a moment of Barkley's attention.
At one point, stopping to let a college-aged fan unfurl his new poster, then put his head through it for the picture, a driver on College Avenue quickly realized what the hubbub was all about. His driver side window down, the fan shouted out to Barkley his encouragement to "$#!* on Pitt" and "tear it up" during the upcoming season.
Drawing a nervous laugh from Barkley, the moment was yet another as team personnel begged fans to allow him to keep moving. Having made it only halfway down the street with more than 90 percent of his allotted time spent, Barkley still accommodated as many fan requests as possible, finally reaching the team's gathering point and signing more autographs before calling it quits.
To teammates, the experience has become an expected one when it comes to Barkley - both in the fans' overwhelming response to his presence and in turn, Barkley's kind and caring handling of their requests.
"He's handled it really well. He's obviously one of the most humble guys that you guys have probably ever met, that I've ever met," said Buchholz. "I don't know how somebody in his position does it. With all these awards and being as popular as he is, he does a great job of not showing any cockiness or anything. He's a great guy."