With his go-go-gadget arms and affinity for making one-handed catches, rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is trying to get the struggling Giants back on track
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants have slipped to 3-6, but first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has been a bright spot for the team in the midst of their four-game losing streak. A nagging hamstring injury kept the rookie receiver from LSU on the sideline for the first four games of the season, but since then he’s accomplished some rare things. He’s the first rookie in team history to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Byron Williams in 1983 (nine years before Beckham was born). Last week in Seattle, Beckham had seven catches for 108 yards while Richard Sherman, one of the league’s best cornerbacks, covered him for most of the afternoon. Beckham’s not only living up to his draft slot—No. 12 overall—he’s also making good on the promise he made to Victor Cruz in Philadelphia, right after Cruz suffered his season-ending patella tendon tear. More on that below…
VRENTAS: Your ability to catch passes with one hand has been making waves since TV cameras caught you in the act during warm-ups two weeks ago before Monday Night Football. Where did you learn to do that?
BECKHAM: I’ve been doing it since high school. If you were to go back and ask my high school coaches, they used to call me Go-Go-Gadget, like Go-Go-Gadget hands from Inspector Gadget. And then I got to college and Jarvis Landry—he plays for the Dolphins now—he and I would always, for no reason, try to catch the ball with one hand. I feel like we had so much confidence in our hands—it was kind of like a test, to challenge yourself. So I’ve been doing that for a long time, seeing who could make the best catch in practice, just for fun. Because sometimes you will get in those situations in a game, and I’d rather be prepared for them than not be prepared. I try to put myself in every situation possible.
VRENTAS: You’ve also drawn praise for your performance against Sherman last week. Even Sherman himself spoke highly of you. How were you able to have success against him, where other receivers have struggled?
BECKHAM: If you hear the name Richard Sherman, and you think he’s the best cornerback in the league, and you sit back and let that affect you while you are playing, I think that plays into his game. A lot of his game is mental, playing mind games with the receivers, and I just tried not to fall into the trap. Just tried to go about my business and keep attacking and competing with one of the best.
VRENTAS: Was there a point in the game when you knew you had his respect?
BECKHAM: There was a certain point in the game when there wasn’t much talking going on. I definitely thought he was going to be talking trash the whole game, and it just wasn’t like that. So it kind of caught me by surprise. You know when you kind of feel like you are getting set up for something, something doesn’t feel right? But we just kept attacking, and we got him on one of those plays [a 44-yard catch], and a few other ones. Still, when it came down to it, he made a nice play on the interception [when Beckham was targeted]. As hard as it is, I am still upset about that. But he’s one of the best, so you’ve just got to take your hat off to him.
VRENTAS: Not a lot of rookie receivers are able to make an impact right away. Why have you been able to do so?
BECKHAM: Two things. One, I was put in this situation where I had to. There was just no other choice. And on top of that, I just want to. I feel like any time—college, high school, it doesn’t matter what it was—I tried to get on the scene and hit it as fast as possible.
VRENTAS: Your mom was an All-America track athlete, and your dad was a starting running back at LSU. Other than good genes, what did they give you to help you in your athletic career?
BECKHAM: Besides that, it was just the mentality we had at home. I’ve been competitive since I was young. It’s just something that was instilled in me when I was very young. Be the best. It’s something I’ve been hearing for a long time.
VRENTAS: Your dad and Shaq were college roommates at LSU, Shaq declared himself to be a Giants fan after you were drafted. What advice did he give you about being a pro?
BECKHAM: We’ve talked about it. He said to just stay the course, trust in everything your parents taught you, everything I have taught you. And make sure you keep your faith. That has stuck with me since.
VRENTAS: You and Eli Manning are both alums of Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans. What did you know about him when you got to the Giants?
BECKHAM: We threw to each other [when I was] in high school, and we threw to each other in Manning Camp. I have talked to him, Peyton and his dad, the whole nine yards. I heard how great Eli was, and then I would watch him playing in the league. Two Super Bowls, Super Bowl MVP. You get here, and you are able to see it firsthand, and it’s just like—it makes sense now. Everything you heard was true.
VRENTAS: How much has Cruz helped you this season, even though he is on IR?
BECKHAM: I check on him every day, because I remember he was checking on me when I was hurt. Just making sure he keeps his head on straight. It’s a long road and a tough one. And he tells me, “I appreciate you holding it down.” I told him when he got hurt that, “I got your back,” and I’m just trying to play for him as much as I can.
VRENTAS: What did you learn during those weeks when you were sidelined with a hamstring injury?
BECKHAM: Stay off social media. It’s just not worth it. That was one of the biggest things. It was tough because the injury kept re-aggravating, and when that happens, it is frustrating. It was a long road. I watched all the games, and I was just sitting there thinking, Man, I could be making these plays. It was not a good feeling, but sitting back and watching and seeing what the team had, I thought highly of what we could do this season.
VRENTAS: The season has, so far, fallen short of expectations. You never played on a losing team at LSU. How have these losses here tested you?
BECKHAM: It’s very tough. The NFL season is a lot longer, for one. And I think I have lost more games here than I did in three years at LSU. [The Tigers lost just seven games from 2011-2013]. That’s just the college atmosphere. I just think I have to get used to that. In the NFL, you can lose six games a year and still have a chance to get to the playoffs. It’s just part of the game. You just have to keep pushing. The biggest thing for me to do is to keep the mindset: Don’t ever give up. Because once you shut that door and start thinking, Oh, we are going to lose, it’s closed. To me, I am always thinking, We are going to win, period. It doesn’t matter who we are playing.
VRENTAS: With Cruz being out, and you coming in as a first-round pick, how much pressure do you feel to help the team get back on track?
BECKHAM: I don’t think it has so much to do with being a first-round pick, it is just more the mentality and approach I have to the game. I just feel like I have to do as much as possible for any team that I am on. I feel that if I don’t do as well as I should, I always put the blame on myself. If I get the opportunity to make a play, then I should make a play. If I don’t, I take part of the blame for the losses. We just need to get that winning feeling back. Any time you get on a streak, whether it is a winning or losing streak, sometimes it is hard to see outside of that.
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