The New York Giants announced last week that they had come to an agreement with Odell Beckham Jr. on a five-year, $95 million contract extension, making Beckham the highest paid receiver in the National Football League.
Listening to reaction from team officials, NFL analysts and Beckham himself has revealed a greater truth: Odell Beckham Jr. is four years older — and four years wiser — than he was when he made his first reception against the Atlanta Falcons during Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season.
In the beginning, Beckham’s “raw” talent and flashy one-handed grabs garnered a lot of positive attention. But, for all the fear he has instilled in the hearts of opponents, he has also created a fearful reputation for his immaturity.
Beckham has been fined three times and suspended one game for a “malicious” hit against then Carolina Panthers defender Josh Norman.
He has been blasted for his poor choices including leading the team on a boat outing just days before their scheduled playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (2016) followed by punching a hole in a wall at Lambeau Field after the loss. Then there was the sideline temper tantrums including a bizarre series of episodes with the field goal netting.
Most recently, a questionable video of Beckham was posted on social media with a woman doing … uh, no one really knows what. When asked about the video, Giants team president John Mara said:
“I’m tired of answering questions about Odell’s behavior and what the latest incident is. I think he knows what we expect of him, and now it’s up to him. I think too often he allows himself to get put in bad situations, and he needs to use a little better judgment.”
Intentional or not, Mara’s comment served as a wake up call for Beckham. In the days, weeks and months that followed Beckham has polished his public persona. Someone, maybe Mara from a distance, got to him.
“I’m growing up. I’m able to take everything that’s happened for me and make myself into a man and learn from those mistakes and be able to look myself in the mirror and have to deal with those things.”
The Giants centerpiece realized that his financial future, his hopes, dreams and success are all tied directly to his image. Without modifying his behavior, Beckham “the brand” will not be in the conversation for major endorsement deals.
Following his signing, Beckham praised the organization, teammates and the fans saying:
“The Giants fans, I love them. I love everybody who’s supported me wearing a 13 jersey, everybody who’s a Giants fan. They’re diehard Giants fans, and their love and support that they’ve given me since I’ve walked into this building …”
Then, two days later, Beckham appeared on LeBron James’ new show, The Shop, where he described described feeling like a “zoo animal” around fans who performs on cue. Compare the above comment with the one below. Two moments. Two Beckham’s.
Dancing, jawing, verbal and physical gestures, one-hand catches in pre-game warm ups, those are behaviors Beckham has created, not the fans. Yes, the fan base is drawn to the flashy style and behavior — and they want more. Beckham, on the other hand, feels like fans treat him like a “zoo animal.” Sorry OBJ, but that persona is your Frankenstein. You built him.
Beckham is maturing, and he has come a long way in four seasons, but playing in New York with a new $95 million contract comes with higher expectations. Beckham is now a veteran, earning a handsome salary and the face of a New York franchise.
Beckham’s greatest test of maturity will begin September 9.