When Odell Beckham Jr. takes a young cornerback to school, he really takes them to school. At least that’s been the case with rookie Eli Apple in training camp. After every route they run against each other, the vast majority of which Beckham wins, they get together and dissect exactly what happened and where Apple can improve.
“He has taught me how to read routes better and he will tell me things from a receiver perspective, like what receivers look for and little things like that,” Apple said. “He’s really been on me about it and just telling me to trust my talent and get my head around. Little things like that we’ve been talking about all the time, so he has been helping me out a lot actually.”
As Beckham enters only his third NFL season, he is taking on a new role for the Giants. Not only is he a superstar receiver, but a mentor. A teacher. A professor whose lessons are heard on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Outside of Eli Manning, there may not be another player on the roster who is looked up to as much as Beckham is. He’s not wasting that status.
“I just love the feeling of being able to help,” Beckham said Wednesday. “Sometimes guys will come to me with questions, not all the time, but they’ll come to me with questions and I’ll give them the best advice that I would give myself. In doing that, I hope that they can just take it and use it.”
Even when the Giants are on the field Friday night for their preseason opener against the Dolphins, Beckham said he wants to continue that. He said his primary job will be to prepare himself, “and then secondly is to be there and help a younger guy. Some of the mistakes I may have made, to not allow anybody else to make that mistake. Just coaching up people and making sure we’re all working together.”
One of Beckham’s closest protégés has been Sterling Shepard, the rookie receiver who may wind up being the starter opposite Beckham in the regular season. The two are often seen chatting and going over plays during practices, and the discussions continue once they leave the field.
“He’s going to be a special player,” Beckham said. “He’s going to be a big-time player.”
Shepard isn’t picking up only on what Beckham says. He’s also been watching how Beckham and Manning work together after two full seasons as teammates.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Shepard said. “There are things that go along with that that Odell has had to gain his trust and I am still trying to pick those things up, so that is what the quarterback-receiver relationship is supposed to be like.”
And what the veteran-rookie relationship is supposed to be like as well, even when the veteran is a 23-year-old, as Beckham is.
Beckham, who has had the most productive first two seasons of any receiver in NFL history, wants his teammates to be better. He knows that’s the only way he can get what he really wants: a championship. So if that takes imparting some of his wisdom whenever he can to whomever he can, he’ll do it.
Just some, but not all. Beckham does keep a few secrets.
“I’m getting used to his moves a little more,” Apple said, “but he will always pull something out that you just never expected . . . It’s crazy.”