Lehigh Valley

Saquon Barkley's biggest fan gets big surprise

Gianna Evans, 5-year-old Saquon superfan.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Five-year-old Gianna Evans has been a Penn State fan for as long as she can remember.

You might say it's a family thing.

"Definitely is," mom Jennifer says. "We all love Penn State here. I went to Penn State, graduated from there."

Gianna's been to games and even met some of the players. She likes all of them, but she's got a favorite. 

"Saquon Barkley," Gianna says definitively.

Number 26, Saquon Barkley, is a lot of people's favorite, but when Gianna was younger, she met him, and he left a big impression on the little Lehigh Valley girl.

"He made such a big deal about her," Jennifer says, adding "It absolutely meant the world to me. He complimented her cheerleading outfit. She told him where we were from, and he said “Oh, I live really close to you” and she was just kind of taken back!"

"Fastest runner," the 5-year-old says, when we ask her why he's her favorite. "He's the best in Penn State," she adds, simply.

That's why she was pretty upset when she learned the news recently.

Gianna's Mom posted a video on Twitter, of her breaking the news, that Saquon would soon be leaving Gianna's beloved Penn State for a new team in the NFL.

In the video, her mom asks her, "You want him to stay at Penn State?" And Gianna replies, "Because he's so good at Penn State. I don't want Mike Gesicki to be all by himself, because Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki work together to win!" she says, her eyes tearing up.

The video went viral. Even Nittany Lions Coach James Franklin retweeted it, adding he didn't have the heart to tell her about senior Mike Gesicki, replying to a tearful Gianna, "I feel the same way!"

But Saquon Barkley has a habit of getting the job done.

We got a message to him about his little fan's concerns and he replied, and we got to share it with her.

He starts out saying, "Hey Gianna," I saw your video, I loved your video!"

He told her his heart would always be with Penn State, and he hoped she'd cheer for him on his next team.

"You never know," he tells her, "Maybe me and Mike Gesicki can play on the same team in the future," and he grins.

To say Gianna was excited is an understatement. She ran with the message on the cell phone to her Dad, exclaiming "Saquon Barkley made this for me!"

Then she ran to her younger twin siblings to replay it over and over for them.

Generations of Penn State pride and it's never been stronger.

And what better proof of why, than in a favorite player's kind message, to his littlest…er…biggest… fan?

And as for that sadness, it's been replaced with a new hope. Gianna says, she's figured out the perfect place for him…just down the road.

"Saquon Barkley could be the bestest player on the Eagles, and the Eagles could win," the delighted fan plots.

No matter where he ends up, it's safe to say, he's got fan who will always look up to him.

"Still gonna like him, and still gonna watch him," she nods.

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