2014 Combine

O'HARA: Odell Beckham Jr. was born with football and speed in his genes

Posted Feb 21, 2014

Beckham is an extremely versatile route runner, and he has good, if not great, speed

Odell BeckhamWR Odell Beckham (Photo: AP Images)
INDIANAPOLIS– It was natural for Odell Beckham Jr. to follow the path of his father’s football cleats to LSU., where Odell Beckham Sr. played running back for the Tigers two decades before him.

And it was just as natural that Odell Jr. would reach the end of that same path to LSU after following in his mother’s track spikes. Heather Van Norman was a track star at LSU – a six-time All-American sprint champion who went on to a career as a track coach.

Odell Beckham Jr. was born with football and speed in his genes and a passion for the LSU Tigers in his blood.

And he’s not ashamed to be a mama’s boy – but on a different level than most young athletes.

When it comes to speed, his mother knows best from her days as an active athlete and more recently as a college coach. She currently coaches at Nicholls St. in Thibodaux, La.

When Odell Jr. his cellphone buzzes after a game with a call from his mother, he knows he isn’t going to get sweet talk about how good her son looked in his uniform or how graceful he was making a highlight catch.

Odell Jr. laughed before responding when asked Friday if he gets any tips about sprinting and running from his mother.

“Absolutely,” he said. “She’s been a track coach for a while. I remember her texting me after games. I had decent games, and she’s texting me – ‘Oh, your form looks great.’

“It’s funny to hear coming from here. She’s a track coach. It’s not like, ‘That’s a nice catch.’ She’s talking about running form.”

This is a good year for teams that are in need of adding wide receivers. The talent pool at the position is deep enough that quality receivers will be available in the second round.

The Lions are one of the teams that are targeting wide receiver. If the Lions choose to fill another position with the 10th pick overall – cornerback, safety or a player at another position too talented to pass by – there is still a reasonable chance of getting a receiver in the second round who can come in and play right away.

Sammy Watkins of Clemson is the top-rated receiver in the draft. If he’s on the board for the Lions at No. 10, it might be the fastest sprint to turn in a pick card in history.

After that comes a mixed bag of receivers of different sizes and skill sets.

Mike Evans of Texas A&M is a 6-foot-5 target, but there are questions about his speed and ability to run anything more than a limited route tree. Marqise Lee of Southern Cal, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, Allen Robinson of Penn State, Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt  and Jarvis Landry of LSU all are well regarded.

Odell Jr. is not the biggest name among receiver class. At the Combine, he was weighed and measured at 5-11, 198 pounds, which leaves him far from being one of the biggest prospects at a time when the NFL is slanting heavily toward big receivers.

However, Odell Jr. has some strong attributes. He is an extremely versatile route runner, and he has good, if not great, speed. He will raise his draft stock if he runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.45-second range when the receivers are timed Sunday.

As a true freshman in 2011, Odell Jr. caught 41 passes for 475 yards and two TDs while competing against some of the best defenses in college football.

His best season was 2013, when he caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight TDs. He said playing that season under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former NFL head coach and coordinator, helped prepare him for the transition to the NFL.

GM Martin Mayhew reiterated Friday that the Lions are looking to add a receiver to play opposite Calvin Johnson who can stand alone on his ability and demand double coverage.

Defenses have been overloading on Johnson, giving him double coverage with a third defender in the vicinity to hammer him the instant he touches the ball.

Odell Jr. would enjoy playing in an offense with Megatron.

“That would be a dream come true,” he said, his eyes lighting up when asked about the possibility. “He’s one of my favorites.

“He plays a completely different game. I like his game, the way he goes up and gets the ball at its peak.”