Every once in a while a new athlete comes around and shocks the world. LeBron was basketball’s gift after the MJ era. Mike Trout is the savior of baseball after Derek Jeter’s retirement. Neymar is only 22 years old and is one of the most popular soccer players in the world.
For football, Odell Beckham Jr. has the chance to take over the game.
There are only a few guys in sports that have all of the ingredients to be a marketing titan — charisma, style, and highlight plays. OBJ fits all three and this year he is going to explode into one of the most popular athletes not just in football but in sports.
The obsession with Odell Beckham Jr. started when the Giants played the Cowboys at home at MetLife Stadium back in November. It was the first play of the second quarter when Eli Manning threw a pass from the 43-yard line. As Cowboys defenders squandered the area, OBJ somehow made one of the greatest catches we have ever seen. To analyze, he caught the ball with the tip of three of his fingers and stretched the play into a touchdown. It is amazing because he only stands at 5-11, which is not the typical size of a jaw-dropping wide receiver. The catch became a social media success. Athletes were awed; guys like LeBron wrote on Twitter, “Man I just witnessed the greatest catch ever possibly by Odell Beckham Jr.! WOW!!!” Countless others followed. The play was just the start of a phenomenon. Fans began arriving early to the practice field to watch OBJ during pregame workouts, where he has built a cult following.
However, things did not start off all that simple in Beckham’s first season in the NFL. A hamstring injury kept him out of the majority of OTAs and minicamp, which sparked some very upset comments from coach Tom Coughlin. It didn’t get better as Beckham went on to miss the first four games of the season due to injury. To make matters worse, the Giants lost Beckham’s fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz in Week 6 to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. It was time for OBJ to step up and that’s exactly what he did. In his first official NFL game, he made the go-ahead touchdown to seal the game for the G-Men. Since that game…a monster exploded.
The 2014 wide receiver Draft class will go down in history. Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Evans all put up crazy first-year numbers. But it was OBJ in the end that went home with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. While the Giants didn’t make the playoffs, in his first nine games, Beckham averaged nine receptions, 133 yards, and one touchdown per game, all numbers no wideout has ever sustained in a full NFL season. From then, he went on to play in the Pro Bowl as a injured reserve and during that same week set a Guinness World Record for most one-handed catches in a minute with 33.
While there are not many athletes who get compared to MJ, especially if they play a different sport, NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling compared OBJ to Mike, writing, “When I watch Beckham play, I can’t get the image of a 1980s era Michael Jordan out of my head. Let me be clear: I’m not saying Beckham shares the NBA legend’s size, hyper-competitive drive or penchant for willing his team to victory. But the vice-grip hands, easy leaping ability, graceful athleticism, mid-air dexterity and improvisational creativity are reminiscent.”
The MJ talk may be hard for any athlete to live up to but the future is bright for Beckham. He is a freak athlete — just check out his reel of playing other sports. The tape reminds me of Bo Jackson in the sense he was great at every single sport. Bo was the type of figure who clashed speed with power, one heck of an ingredient for an athlete. As Beckham does everything with finesse, I can imagine the marketing ads Nike is going to do in the near future. He is an advertiser’s dream. Maybe we can have a commercial entitled “Catch Everything” featuring OBJ. Maybe after a few years of catching wreck on NFL defenses, he’ll even have a signature shoe.
A week after the catch against New York, the Swoosh granted him a pair of custom gloves commemorating the occasion, and Nike received at least $2.17 million in media exposure from the play, influenced in part by more than 35,000 tweets the minute after Beckham’s catch.
The Giants have a lot to live up to next season. Minus the highlights of OBJ, the 2014 season was a huge mess. With Victor Cruz back they will have two of the most dynamic playmakers at the wideout position, which should be enough for Eli Manning. This is going to be a huge year for OBJ so take notice and respect a superstar in the making.
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