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Meet Jerry Jeudy: Verb, Highlight Reel, and the NFL Draft’s Most Unique Talent

From the kids in football-crazed Southeast Florida to the best of the NFL present and past, Jeudy has captured the attention of great receivers. A closer look at the best wide receiver in the 2020 NFL draft, from his introduction to football, to his mastery of it at Alabama, to the real story behind his Star of David necklace.

Back home, his name has become a verb. On fields throughout South Florida’s Broward County, aspiring players of every age have taken to stutter-stepping, dead-legging, spinning, juking and jitterbugging as they imitate their favorite wide receiver. Where earlier generations hollered “You got Mossed!” while embarrassing opposing defensive backs, kids today are all trying to Jeudy.

Jevon Glenn sees the craze up close. As a youth football fixture and coach at Deerfield Beach High, where Jerry Jeudy dropped jaws and broke ankles before heading to Alabama in 2017, Glenn is constantly issuing admonishments for dancing in place during practice instead of running drills. Hey, we don’t have time for you to sit there and be Jeudying. Even so, Glenn admits, the arrival of Jeudy (the verb) has made a positive impact. Who better to learn from than Jeudy (the human) about the art of coming off the line of scrimmage?

“From little league all the way up to my seniors,” Glenn says, “when they work on their releases, they call it Jeudying. He’s the release king.”

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Even in a loaded position group that threatens the record for first-round receivers in an NFL draft (six), the 6' 1", 192-pound Jeudy stands alone for his ability to shed coverage—selling fakes better than a back-alley watch dealer, operating with a PhD-level command of the route tree. As expected, replicating this isn’t easy for teens. Adds Glenn, “Most of them fall after they get done Jeudying.”

Countless DBs can relate. Viral footage of their demise is readily available. In one video from a 2016 Florida Gators recruiting camp (with more than 4,200 Twitter likes to date), Jeudy leaves a cornerback splayed facedown with a nasty comeback-and-go double move. Another, filmed at a group workout with Antonio Brown last summer in Ft. Lauderdale, opens with Jeudy planting and stopping so abruptly on a 10-yard curl that his defender screeches another three yards downfield before a) realizing what has happened, b) attempting to recover and c) finally falling over. It has almost one million views.

“When he gets separation,” says quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a projected top-15 pick like Jeudy after both left Alabama following their junior seasons, “if it’s a timing route, I see Jerry break his man off so bad and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to punt the ball to you because you’re so wide open.’”

As Jeudy terrorized SEC secondaries—winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2018, finishing second in program history to Amari Cooper with 26 touchdown catches and becoming only the second Crimson Tide wideout with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (D.J. Hall, 2006 and ’07)—his legions of admirers swelled far beyond kids. Terrell Owens hit him up for a workout when he visited Tuscaloosa before Jeudy’s sophomore year; they ran routes for more than an hour. After a Bama victory last season Odell Beckham Jr. called to congratulate him on FaceTime.

Then there are his DMs, filled with household handles—Davante Adams, Keenan Allen and Stefon Diggs to name-drop several—replying to clips of his jukes with breathless, emoji-laced praise:

You look good. Real real good ground contact.

Savage!

U f----- liveeeee

“When you look at the tape, he jumps out [of] the screen at you,” Diggs says. “Sky’s the limit for him.” Several of the NFL’s best have even reached out to probe for tips on hand placement or hip movement, curious about Jeudy’s approach to the craft. “I’m trying to get to where you’re at, but you’re hitting me up and looking at me, trying to take something out of my book?” Jeudy says, scrolling through some of these messages on his phone. “That’s crazy.”

Most mock drafts project either Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb as the first wideout off the board—not a moment too soon for the pros who have been awaiting Jeudy’s arrival since he dusted that recruit at Florida’s camp. “I was like, ‘Who the f--- is this kid to stop and cut like that?’” says the Patriots’ Mohamed Sanu Sr. “Saw more, saw more, then I went, ‘O.K., he’ll for real be one of the best to do it someday.’”

A lofty prediction, perhaps, considering the 20-year-old Jeudy hasn’t lined up for a single NFL snap. And yet it’s nothing that he hasn’t been obsessively working toward since he was a wide-eyed, dead-legging kid from Broward County, hitching a ride on the floor of a minivan.

* * *

In hindsight, Calvin Davis recognizes the numerous safety regulations that he broke that day. But how was he supposed to say no? Just as the Monarch High coach was loading up his silver Nissan, preparing to take six upperclassmen—including future Alabama and Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley—on a whirlwind recruiting trip to camps at Tennessee, Louisville, Ohio State and other D-1 programs in the summer of 2014, Jeudy, then 15, had come sprinting up Davis’s driveway with nothing but a backpack and a pair of football cleats.

“Can I go?” Jeudy asked.

“There’s no space,” Davis said. “Where are you going to sit?”

“Here,” Jeudy replied, gesturing to the spot between the bucket seats.

And so he did, rumbling across the nation’s highways sans seatbelt, then buckling opponents at each stop. There were separate groups for his age but Jeudy, a rising sophomore, kept quiet and joined his older friends, knowing college coaches would pay closer attention to them. “And when it was my turn, I went out and balled,” Jeudy says.

His recruiting stock boomed from there, culminating in a flood of offers. But Davis enjoys telling this story for another reason: “He sat on the floor. That was when you really knew how great he wanted to be.”

There were many such signs. Jeudy didn’t start playing football until seventh grade in Coral Springs; he was the youngest of three kids for most of his childhood, and his mother, Marie, feared for the safety of her skinny baby boy. “But one day she got tired of me asking,” Jerry says. A switch flipped.

Soon Jeudy was joining Ridley and other neighborhood diehards every weekend, darting through cones at Sabal Pines Park, practicing routes in the thick sands of Pompano Beach. On weeknights he would plow through his homework then tear up the backyard grass with ladder drills until his self-imposed bedtime of 9 p.m. At Deerfield Beach he taxed the JUGS machine so hard that Glenn sent it away for a tuneup.

As important as how much Jeudy worked, though, was how much he watched. “I was a highlight maniac,” he says. Whether he was hanging with friends or eating dinner with family, his face was always buried in some sort of screen, tumbling down rabbit holes of tape. “The only complaint teachers had—all of his work would be done, but he’d be watching YouTube and Hudl,” Glenn says. Shifty, smaller types were his favorites: Reggie Bush, Tavon Austin, viral Pop Warner star Cody Paul … “They were just exciting to watch, how they make people miss,” Jeudy says. “I was like, ‘I want to be that explosive. I want to be that elusive.’ ”

He was a swift study. After only two years of youth football, during which his teams won a single game, Jeudy spent his freshman year hopping between Monarch High School’s JV and varsity squads, contributing at both receiver and defensive back. “One game I scored like three times on three catches,” he recalls. “I’m shaking people, making ‘em miss, getting touchdowns. I’m like, ‘Mmm...I’m pretty good.” It was enough to earn his first letter of interest, from Cincinnati. At first Jeudy was simply thrilled to get some flattering mail, though he didn’t understand why. When Ridley explained that the letter might lead to an offer, Jeudy replied, “What’s an offer?”

Another switch flipped. “In middle school I knew I was going to play football, go to high school and then go find a 9-to-5,” Jeudy says now. “I knew college wasn’t an option. Don’t nobody got no money for no college. So I was like, ‘Damn, I don’t got to pay nothing?’ They were like, ‘Yeah, you’ve just got to keep balling.’ Ever since then, that’s all I was trying to do.” In his mind, making it was a way to provide a better life for his family. Especially Aaliyah.

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Years later, Jeudy would raise eyebrows at the NFL combine for wearing a Star of David necklace as a homonymic nod to his nickname, Jeu, even though, as he pointed out during his press availability, he doesn’t practice the religion. (“Don’t mean no disrespect to the Jewish people!” he tweeted later.) What everyone in Indianapolis failed to notice, though, was the girl whose picture occupied the symbol’s center.

Born premature with severe health complications that limited her speech and mobility, his younger sister required around-the-clock care for her entire life. Sometimes, if the night nurse was running late, Jerry would come home from practice, help feed Aaliyah and suction mucus from the breathing tube in her trachea while still wearing his football gear. Or he would just sit by her bedside and nuzzle her nose to nose while her laugh filled the room.

“When I took care of her, I used to think, ‘When I get to the league, I’m finna find these doctors to help her learn how to talk, how to walk, stuff like that,’” Jeudy says. “God had other plans.”

Aaliyah, whom doctors once said wouldn’t live past her third birthday, died in hospice care in nearby Boynton Beach, surrounded by family, on Nov, 25, 2016. She was 7. At that time Jeudy was leading Deerfield Beach—to which he had transferred as a junior—to a 28–21 victory over Atlantic in the Class 8A state quarterfinals, ultimately his next-to-last high school game. Upon learning the news from his older brother, Terry, while walking off the field, he stopped in his tracks and cried. “I love you sis, you in a better place now,” Jeudy tweeted the next morning. “I swear I’m going to make it for you and mommy.”

Now that he is almost there, headlining a receiver class that could challenge the 2014 OBJ/Adams/Mike Evans/Jarvis Landry bonanza as the deepest ever, Jeudy has big plans for Marie. A single mother who left Haiti for the U.S. at 14, knowing next to nothing about American football, she worked tirelessly at various jobs—making parachutes at an Army factory, serving as a nurse at an assisted living facility, selling blankets and jewelry out of her car around South Florida—so there was always food on her children’s plates, even if she went hungry.