Odell Beckham Jr. remembers it ever so vividly.
He was there at Duke University, running routes for both Peyton and Eli at the “Manning Passing Academy,” the same as he had for many years. He remembers catching passes from Eli during his sophomore year when the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback would visit Newman High School.
But this particular day stood out. He split out wide, ran a post route and prepared for the pass from Eli.
“Before I could look up the ball was in my hands,” Beckham said. “It was something I wasn’t used to.”
The Giants hope the connection becomes a bit more familiar to Beckham, especially after selecting him with the No. 12 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The connection that once took place on high school and college practice fields will now be displayed to thousands on the turf at MetLife Stadium.
“The coach always tells me about how him and Peyton were deciding who gets to throw with me,” Beckham said. “Back then thinking that maybe I’ll get to play with one of the Mannings, and now here I am, it’s pretty surreal.”
Since being drafted, Beckham has rarely lifted his head up from his playbook. The wide receiver has spent his mornings, afternoons and nights looking to master every position. While both he and the Giants envision him split wide, Beckham wants to be prepared for anything.
“I kind of teach myself by learning one spot and then learning the whole play as well so you don’t have to just play one spot,” Beckham said. “You can get substituted in here or there.”
Ideally, New York prefers a lineup featuring Beckham and Rueben Randle split out wide, with Victor Cruz in the slot. The formation would put the Louisiana native on the field with his “big brother” and fellow LSU alum, Randle.
Randle and Beckham played one year together in college before Randle was drafted by the Giants in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In that season, the two combined for 94 receptions, 1,392 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“When I came to LSU he taught me the ropes there,” Beckham said. “He’s teaching me things here now. He may not be my personal tutor, but he’ll teach me what I need to know as far as the position that he plays and the opposite side as well.
“It’s definitely comforting to have a piece of home out here in my new home. Just hanging out with him and kind of rekindling our relationship as been fun.”
When Randle left LSU, Beckham continued to establish himself as a player with game-breaking capability in nearly ever facet of the game. In his senior year, the 21-year-old recorded 59 receptions for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns. As a returner, Beckham averaged 26.4 yards per kick, and 8.9 per punt.
The impressive attributes led Giants’ General Manager Jerry Reese to gush over the wide out following his selection the NFL Draft.
“He’s a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner,” Reese said at a press conference. “You are getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There’s no way we could pass that up.”
While all aspects of his game were highlights of his draft selection, during his first week in a Giants’ uniform only one has been mentioned. The coaching staff is content at the moment with Beckham strictly focusing on wide receiver, having addressed the return game in both Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps.
“I talked to coach maybe about doing a little bit of punt return,” Beckham said. “But they’ve got Holliday and a few other guys who can do kick return and punt return as well. Right now that’s all up in the air.”
Whether it’s out wide, or back for a return, Beckham will stand there just 5’ 11” off the ground. Even with his short stature, he believes there is no reason he shouldn’t be considered a legitimate No. 1 in the league. The way Beckham sees it; others have already paved the way.
“There’s other guys in this league that are smaller than I am,” Beckham said. “Percy Harvin and I are about the same size, he may be a little faster, but (my height) is something I don’t think about.”
What Beckham does think about is the same thing his mind has been fixated on since he glided up on the stage at Radio City Music Hall and held up a blue jersey with “Beckham Jr.” inscribed on the back.
Getting back on the practice field with Eli.