Before most television cameras start rolling and fans enter the stadium, Odell Beckham Jr. practices making acrobatic, one-handed catches in pre-game warmups.
It paid off for the rookie receiver.
Beckham’s spectacular, leaping, right-handed grab while falling backward and drawing an interference penalty was the talk of the NFL and the Internet on Monday.
Everyone from LeBron James to Hollywood celebs Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack marveled at Beckham’s touchdown catch in the New York Giants’ loss to Dallas on Sunday night.
“The greatest catch I’ve ever seen,” said James, who was an All-Ohio wide receiver in high school.
Banks tweeted: “Just back from the #AMAs and seeing replay of that Odell Beckman Jr. catch. OMG that was sick.”
Cusack compared it to David Tyree’s helmet grab in the Super Bowl and Lynn Swann’s diving reception in an earlier Super Bowl.
Beckham, however, does it every day in practice and before games. This catch just happened to be in front of a national television audience against the Cowboys. His teammates, coaches and anyone who watched him play weren’t surprised.
“He practices that one-handed snag,” said Eli Manning, who also threw the pass to Tyree that helped the Giants beat New England. “He’s got big hands and great concentration and he can make those plays. That was a pretty great one.”
Beckham made several stunning catches at LSU, including a diving, one-handed grab against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
“I saw him and Jarvis (Landry) do things like that on the practice field all the time. I mean all the time,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “They finally caught one on camera, I guess. It’s something that we would have expected.”
NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, a three-time Pro Bowl receiver in the ’80s, repeated: “That might be the greatest catch I’ve ever seen.”
When asked about working on one-handed catches recently, Beckham said: “It’s something you just have to practice. The opportunity sometimes presents itself and you know you want to be prepared. That is one of those things that I have been doing for a long time. Jarvis Landry and I would always do that every day in practice. We wouldn’t compete, but we would see who could make the most ridiculous catch.”
Many players work on one-handed catches in practice and afterward on the JUGS machine. It’s not just receivers, either.
Two-time All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt catches balls one-handed before games, too. Of course, Watt has actually lined up as a receiver and has two TD catches this season.
“It’s partially just hand-eye coordination before the game and it’s partially to warm up the hands a little bit, partially for fun,” Watt said. “The more you can do, the better athlete you can (be), the better you’re going to be on the field. It’s all part of it.”
San Francisco’s Stevie Johnson said you can practice the one-handed catches by tossing the ball in the air and out of view and then trying to catch it, but when it comes to games, it’s a natural instinct for a soft-handed wideout — with a little assist from those sticky receiver gloves they wear, too.
“It’s a little bit of both, the gloves and his talent,” Johnson said. “It was a solid catch.”
Several players have made amazing one-handed catches this season, including Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, New England’s Rob Gronkowski, Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin and Miami’s Mike Wallace.
Buffalo’s Robert Woods got into the act Monday night against the New York Jets. Woods appeared to get his left arm tangled a bit with a defender, so he reached up with his right, gently bobbling the ball at first before controlling it with that one hand for a 27-yard gain.
Benjamin rated Beckham’s grab a 9.0 and joked that he only gets a 10 if he would’ve caught it with his eyes closed. Unlike Beckham and others, the Panthers rookie doesn’t practice one-handed catches.
“One-handed catches are just reaction catches,” he said. “You just go to that zone at the moment. It’s entertainment.”
Swann put Beckham’s catch into perspective.
“I don’t know how many times you throw that pass and how many times you actually catch it,” the Hall of Famer said. “He threw it to him one time, he caught it, and for a touchdown. There are a couple of things that make it phenomenal. Fact he caught it with two fingers and a thumb and didn’t use all of his hand. He stopped that baby with two fingers and his thumb, that’s hard to do.”
Colts veteran Reggie Wayne often draws a large crowd when he practices one-handed catches on a JUGS machine. His coach, Chuck Pagano, encourages players to work on it.
“If you make them in practice, you’ll make them in games,” Pagano said. “And that’s what we talk about all the time. It’s all about preparation.”
Wallace catches 100 balls per hand each day. He also thinks those super-sticky gloves are helping guys make these plays.
“Anything you do, if you practice it, you’ll get better,” Wallace said.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken, Will Graves, Steven Wine, Janie McCauley, Michael Marot, Tom Withers, Howard Ulman, Tom Canavan, Noah Trister and Steve Reed contributed to this report.
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi