PHOENIX** – Early in the 2014 NFL season, it seemed Odell Beckham Jr.'s rookie year was going nowhere. Instead, he took it to places no first-year wide receiver had ever inhabited.
Beckham capped his extraordinary debut season here tonight when he was named the Associated Press' Offensive Rookie of the Year, the first Giants player to be so honored in the 58-year history of the award. He is the franchise's first Rookie of the Year since Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor won the defensive award in 1981. Beckham is the first wide receiver to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year since 2009, when Percy Harvin, then with Minnesota, won the award.
The other finalists for the award were Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans and Dallas guard Zack Martin.
Beckham received the award at the Fourth Annual NFL Honors in the Phoenix Convention Center's Symphony Hall, a short distance from where New England and Seattle will play in Super Bowl XLIX tomorrow. As soon as his name was announced, Beckham hugged his parents, Odell Beckham Sr. and Heather Van Norman, followed closely by his teammate and friend, Victor Cruz.
"It really means everything," he said. "To look in the stands and see my mom and dad there, to see them tearing up and the smile on their face, and to know I made them proud, it's something that can never be taken away from me."
Beckham had previously won Rookie of the Year awards presented by The Sporting News and the Professional Football Writers Association.
When the calendar turned from September to October, anyone suggesting Beckham would be the Rookie of the Year likely would have had their sanity challenged. To that point he had yet to play a game, having missed training camp, the entire preseason and the first four regular-season games with a hamstring injury.
"Early in the year I didn't even know if I was going to have a chance to play," Beckham said. "(It took) patience, a lot of prayer, and a lot more patience. Being out that long and just not knowing if you were every going to get healthy was very hard for me. I fought through it and came back and had a nice little season."
That is clearly the season's biggest understatement. Beckham more than made up for his lost time in the final three months, when he crafted the greatest season by a rookie wide receiver in NFL history.
Reduced to a 12-game season, Beckham caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, all franchise rookie records. He is the first wide receiver in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards after missing the season's first three games - and he sat out the first four. Beckham set NFL records for most catch and yards in the first 12 games to start a career.
Giants WR Odell Beckham at the 4th annual NFL Honors at the Phoenix Convention Center Symphony Hall
In addition, Beckham provided the season's most spectacular moment with his now-famous, leaping one-handed touchdown catch against Dallas on Nov. 23, which made him a national sensation. The catch was named Play of the Year at the NFL Honors.
"When I first made the catch I didn't know the magnitude of it would have been what it was," Beckham said. "That was just one of the plays, one of the highlights of the season – maybe the main one, but one of the highlights of the season. I felt there were so many other good things that I did."
He's correct. A (very) partial list of his accomplishments included:
- Beckham's 91 catches were the second-highest total in franchise history, topped only by Steve Smith's 107 receptions in 2009.
- Beckham's 91 receptions are tied with Denver's Eddie Royal (2008) for the second-highest total in NFL history for a rookie; Arizona's Anquan Boldin caught 101 passes in 2003.
- Beckham's 1,305 yards were the third-highest total in Giants history, surpassed only by Victor Cruz's 1,536 yards in 2011 and Amani Toomer's 1,343 yards in 2002.
- Beckham's 1,305 receiving yards surpassed Billy Howton (1,231 with Green Bay in 1952) for the most receiving yards for a player's first 12 career games in NFL history.
- Beckham joined Hall of Famer Michael Irvin as the only players in NFL history with at least 90 receiving yards in nine consecutive games. Irvin accomplished the feat in 1995.
- Beckham is just the fourth player in franchise history with at least 12 touchdown receptions in a season. Homer Jones set the record with 13 in 1967. Plaxico Burress (2007) and Del Shofner (1962) also had 12.
- Beckham and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans each had 12 touchdown catches, the highest total by an NFL rookie since Minnesota's Randy Moss had 17 in 1998.
Beckham's 12 touchdown catches are a Giants rookie record and he tied the franchise total rookie touchdown mark set in 1943 by Bill Paschal (10 rushing, two receiving).
- Beckham averaged 108.8 yards a game, obliterating Victor Cruz's previous Giants record of 96.0, set in 2011. Beckham's 108.8-yard average is also an NFL rookie record, topping the old mark of 105.2 set by Groman in 1960.
- Beckham was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in both November and December, an accomplish that is particularly impressive he was part of a tremendous class of first-year pros that included his former LSU teammates and close friends, wide receiver Jarvis Landry of Miami and running back Jeremy Hill of Cincinnati.
"This is a great class I came in with," Beckham said. "It's part of the reason I came out, so I could be included in this class of full-loaded talented guys. I watched pretty much every rookie just to see what they were doing, not just to compare myself to them, but at the end of the day we're all in the same class and we'll all be remembered."
Beckham was particularly touched by the presence of Cruz, who suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon a week after the rookie played his first game.
"Just knowing that he's proud of it ... when I was hurt he was there for me, too," Beckham said. "The tables switched around and he got injured. Just letting him know you have to embrace the injury and the adversity and it's going to be something that's going to make you stronger. Vic and I are very close and I'm very happy for everything that he's done for me."
Beckham had already set his goals for the 2015 season, and they have nothing to do with great catches.
- "I think it's the same as everyone else, win a Super Bowl, first and foremost," he said. "That's what you come here to do, win games and win a Super Bowl."