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Odell Beckham Jr.'s pregame display is also must-see TV

Odell Beckham of the New York Giants warms

Odell Beckham of the New York Giants warms up prior to an NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on Nov. 30, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The pregame ritual began innocently enough.

As Odell Beckham Jr. was warming up a few minutes before the Giants' Week 6 game in Philadelphia, the rookie wide receiver wanted to catch more passes before heading into the locker room. But the team drills were over and many of Beckham's teammates already had left the field.

Beckham needed someone to throw him passes, and the nearest guy was assistant equipment manager Ed Skiba. "He was just right there," Beckham said of how he selected Skiba.

"I mean, he didn't pick me out or anything like that," Skiba said. "I was just doing nothing. The one kid we work with, Greg Oxnard [a game-day equipment staffer], was throwing with Victor Cruz. Odell saw Victor doing it and he just picked up on it and said to me, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Nothing,' and we just started throwing."

Skiba picked up a football, walked with Beckham toward the end zone and began tossing the ball to the rookie, who asked that he be thrown any number of different passes.

Over his head.

Far ahead of him.

Behind him.

Fast passes.


Easy ones. Difficult ones.

Especially those.

Only a few people in the stands were watching, but they were treated to the types of catches Beckham now routinely makes during games -- including the sort of spectacular one-handed reception he made against the Cowboys on Nov. 23, a catch that many have said ranks as one of the greatest in NFL history.

Beckham, it turns out, is a must-watch not only during the game but before it.

Skiba has had a close-up view of the highlight show from the start, so if there's anyone in the organization who isn't surprised by Beckham's acrobatic catches, it's the diminutive equipment worker, who is now a permanent participant in Beckham's warm-up routine.

Same ritual every game day. The next show starts about an hour before Sunday's game against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

"He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen come through here," said Skiba, who has worked for the Giants nearly two decades. "He just wants to be the best that he can be."

The routine -- which lasts up to 30 minutes -- is directed by Beckham, who asks for an assortment of passes by making hand gestures. Little is said between the two as Beckham listens to music through earbuds. "He does a good job out there," Beckham said of Skiba. "It's just kind of whatever you feel."

It's reminiscent of what he often did during practice at LSU with teammate Jarvis Landry, who now plays for the Dolphins. With Skiba, though, it's a bit more controlled. "Jarvis has thrown a lot worse balls," Beckham said. "We are both competing in a way so we would throw it in places where we were like, 'You're definitely not going to catch it.' "

Beckham's pregame routine provides a window into his preparation and thought process before a game. Depending on the type of catches he makes and the passes that are thrown, he'll often adjust the routine accordingly, either concentrating on one specific pass or asking for a variety. Sometimes Skiba simply will choose a pass on his own, because not every throw is scripted.

"Last week, he was trying to work on a catch behind his head," Skiba said. "Then there was another where he jumped up and came down with the ball and just took it out of the air with one hand. Like he's trying to catch it and then pull it away from the defender."

It's a play Beckham actually tried to make in a game against the Seahawks in Week 10. As he leaped in the air in the end zone, with All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman covering him, Beckham attempted to snatch the ball away from Sherman but wound up deflecting it instead. The ball was intercepted by safety Earl Thomas.

There was nothing different about Beckham's routine before the Cowboys game, yet for all the spectacular plays Skiba has seen Beckham make during warmups or mid-week practices, the one-handed touchdown catch -- in which Beckham actually secured the ball using three fingers before bringing it in to his chest -- left him astonished.

"I was right on the sideline on the other side of midfield, and I was looking at the Jumbotron," he said. "You see the catch and it's like, 'Oh, my God.' "

But there was another one that only a handful of players and team officials saw that left Skiba even more astounded.

During a recent practice, Beckham was fielding punts from Steve Weatherford. On one particular type of punt, Weatherford kicks the ball in such a way that it travels end-over-end, but with a backward rotation. This one went toward the sideline. Beckham reached over with his right hand across his chest and caught the ball backhanded.

"He just pulled it out of the air with one hand," Skiba said. "We couldn't believe it."

Plenty more where that came from. Whether it's during the game or before it, Beckham puts on a show like few we've ever seen.

With 972 yards and nine touchdowns, he already has broken Jeremy Shockey's rookie receiving record and is poised to break the coveted 1,000-yard mark against the Rams on Sunday. Beckham could end up becoming the first Giant to be selected as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"It's always in the back of your mind,'' he said, "but right now, you can only finish out the last couple of games and whatever happens happens. If it were to happen, it would be quite an accomplishment, but that's not up to me, so I'll keep doing what I've been doing."

Being in the Giants' record books already is a reality.

"I set the bar as high as possible," he said. "I didn't even know I broke the [Shockey] record until someone told me about it. To be in company with Shockey is great. The Giants are one of the best organizations I've heard about, hands down, and to be a part of it and be mentioned with all the other greats that came along is quite an honor."

One that is earned with his unique talent, a relentless work ethic and now a pregame ritual that is here to stay.


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