It can happen in an instant.
In the NFL, careers can be both made and undone in the span of one play. David Tyree's time in the league was spent almost entirely in anonymity. He tallied fewer than 1,000 receiving yards over his entire career.
Yet thanks to one catch in Super Bowl XLII, Tyree's name is forever etched in NFL history.
Last year at this time, another New York Giants pass-catcher made some NFL history of his own. The stakes may not have been quite as high, but on a Sunday evening at MetLife Stadium, a rookie receiver made a play so eye-popping that Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, "In 22 years of covering the NFL, I have seen many amazing things in person at games. Hail Marys to win games. Two 80-yard runs in the same game by Barry Sanders. You think you've seen it all until you see that."
In that instant, a superstar was born.
This is an oral remembrance of Odell Beckham Jr. and "the catch heard round the world."
Beckham may have become a superstar on that November night one year ago against the rival Dallas Cowboys, but the former LSU star was hardly anonymous before that.
Beckham was the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft after breaking the single-season all-purpose yardage record at Louisiana State the year before. A hamstring injury cost Beckham all of training camp and the first month of the 2014 season, but he was picking up steam long before that fateful home tilt against Dallas.
Beckham caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in his first NFL start against the Atlanta Falcons. Two weeks later, he reeled in two more scoring grabs in a loss in Dallas. In the three games between the Giants' two meetings with the Cowboys in 2014, Beckham averaged seven grabs for 119 yards.
It was hardly as if nobody knew who Odell Beckham was.
But everyone and his or her mother was about to find out.
Odell Beckham: "It’s kind of one of those things—it’s changed my life forever, and not in a bad way."
Beckham may have been enjoying a fair amount of individual success as a rookie last year, but the same could not be said for his team.
After starting the season 3-2, a banged-up Giants team limped into MetLife Stadium in Week 12 having dropped five games in a row. In a Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a horrific knee injury from which he still has not returned.
At 3-7, Big Blue was playing for little more than pride when the division-leading Cowboys came to town for a Sunday night showdown.
In a season in which not much had gone right for the Giants, the game started well. Quarterback Eli Manning found Beckham for a three-yard touchdown early. As the first quarter turned into the second, the Giants held a 7-3 lead and had driven just inside Dallas territory.
And then it happened.
Victor Cruz, Giants wide receiver (on injured reserve at the time): "I was there—I was actually up top [in a suite] watching the game."
Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive vice president: "I was in the box with our family and a few guests, some of our executives. There was a flag down, so I knew it was going to be a play against us. I thought it was a defensive pass interference call. But then I thought the ball was over his head and maybe was uncatchable."
Justin Pugh, Giants offensive lineman: "So I’m on the sideline as a spectator, and [Manning] throws the ball up, and I see [Beckham] get grabbed. So I’m screaming, 'That’s a penalty! That’s a penalty!'"
Rod Marinelli, Cowboys defensive coordinator: "We were in man. Brandon [Carr] was in pretty good position all the way through. He could have snapped his head a little quicker. But the position was everything. Then, I thought he stumbled a little."
Zak DeOssie, Giants long snapper: "I was right there on the sideline, warming up for field goals because we were in field-goal territory. Then, I saw the referee reach for his flag because the defender was all over him, so I threw my hands up to celebrate because I was thinking it was pass interference."
Mark Herzlich, Giants Linebacker: "I was watching on the sideline, and all I remember is yelling, 'It’s a penalty! He’s holding him! That’s a penalty!' So I’m pumped because I saw the flag go out, and I knew we were going to get a pass interference call. But honestly? I didn’t expect him to catch it—I thought it was going to go over his head."
A.J Green, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver: "It was just like a go ball, and Eli threw it up. The corner was holding him. He went back with his huge hands and just snagged it."
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins wide receiver and college teammate of Beckham: "He worked through the defender, stayed in bounds, and then he laid out in the air. I saw him reaching out and trying to make the play, and that ball is sticking on those three fingers. That’s what I remember. With his hand size and his hand strength and the awareness he has to get even a fingertip on a ball, the chances of him catching a ball like that are through the roof. The thing is, he can catch just as good with one hand as with two."
Stephen Jones: "Somebody said, 'No, he caught that ball.' I said, 'What?' I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the board. I said, 'Holy cow.' It has to be the best catch I’ve ever seen."
Mark Herzlich: "He reached up and made that unbelievable catch, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' And I turned around and just said to whoever was around and was like, 'Did you just see what happened? Did you see that? Did you see that?' It was that type of thing where all through the extra point it was 'Did you see that? Did you see what just happened?' Everyone just looked up at the replay, and it was amazing."
Victor Cruz: "As soon as it happened, I kind of looked up, and I was like, 'That’s probably the best catch I’ve ever seen, hands down.' I’ve been around football all of my life and been a part of a lot of great games and been a part of a lot of great catches myself, so I’ve seen a lot, but that catch was by far the best one I’ve ever seen."
Weston Richburg, Giants offensive lineman: "I thought they would find something to overturn it. But the more times that play was shown on the scoreboard, you’re like, 'Man, he really did catch that! It did not touch the ground.' Then, a few days later, you realize that he caught it with what, three fingers?"
Josh Brown, Giants kicker and 13-year NFL veteran: "My first reaction was incomplete pass. I didn’t see it, and I don’t think everyone in the stands really understood what they just saw because there wasn’t this massive explosion of celebration. There was more of 'Did that just happen?' And so I thought, 'Incomplete pass,' and I walked away. Then, I found out that he caught that ball, and I was like, 'How did he get his hands on that?'"
Rod Marinelli: "My reaction? Get the kickoff return team ready. When you are in position and playing your tail off, great players are going to make great plays. Like a great linebacker versus a great tailback—all of a sudden, the guy runs over him. Things happen. The guy made an unbelievable catch because he can jump, and to catch that ball like that—wow."
Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants defensive end: "I was not looking. I saw it a couple of times on the scoreboard, and it was a great catch—probably one of the greatest catches ever."
Rashad Jennings, Giants running back: "I was just stunned. One, I was like, 'Did he catch it?' Two, 'Was he in?' And three, 'Is there a flag?' That was one of the greatest catches of all time."
Eli Manning, Giants quarterback: "Yeah, I knew he caught it. I could see. He does that. He practices that one-handed snag. He’s got big hands and great concentration, and he can make those plays. That was a pretty great one."
Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach: "He’s got a gift—there’s no doubt. I’ve seen him make a lot of one-handed catches, to be honest with you. But none falling down like that, going away and being able to snatch the ball like that and then stay in bounds after being fouled. That was quite a thing, too. It gave us a great spark, and it does that when people make plays like that. It excites the sideline, and the team gets excited about it, and we were."
Brad Wing, Giants punter and Beckham's roommate at LSU: "It was unreal and kind of the same experience as Josh said—did that really happen on Sunday Night Football? I had seen him do that in practice and in the parking lot, so when it happened, it was just unbelievable. Although I had seen it before, it was still very jaw-dropping. Just unreal."
Charean Williams, Cowboys columnist, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I was sitting in the press box nearest the end zone 'where it happened.' None of us thought he had caught it. I saw the flag first and then saw the official's arms go up to signal touchdown. It was disbelief. 'He caught that?!' There was no way he caught that. I thought the ball was thrown five yards out of bounds. My vision quickly shot to the TV replay, which was a few seconds behind, and I saw him come down with the ball."
Cris Carter, ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame receiver: "I thought it was a great catch, one of those perfect-storm moments. The trajectory of the ball, the glove—it all came together. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of catches. It was thrown to the only place he could catch it."
Josh Brown: "Yeah, I mean, I’m walking out onto the field, and I’m not even thinking about my job [the PAT]. I’m like, 'How was he able to do that?' That was like a Spider-Man move. It really was a phenomenal moment to be a part of and to witness and be a part of the atmosphere and energy that it brought to the stadium."
Rashad Jennings: "You erupt. You practice so much, play so much, and then to have an opportunity to make a catch like that, it just makes the sideline feel like it can take over the game."
Weston Richburg: "There were a lot of guys who were shocked that it happened. It was good for the guys and was definitely motivating for us."
Justin Pugh: "It was pure mayhem. Just nothing I've ever seen before, either playing or as a fan."
Jason Pierre-Paul: "It brought a lot of emotion and effort. It just took us to a whole new level. We lost that game (31-28), but we just knew what we had in him."
Weston Richburg: "Um, maybe you see that when kids are messing around and stuff like that—you know, they’re wearing Stickum on the hands and stuff like that. In an actual game, it was cool to see that."
Rashad Jennings: "He practiced those catches all the time, but you never think that kind of catch is going to come up in a game, but it did. Just when you think you’ve seen everything in this game, along comes something else. That’s why this game is something else and why you love it."
Brandon Carr, Cowboys cornerback: "It was a great catch. I’m not going to entertain this one. I’m not the right one to talk about it. There is nothing to talk about. It’s y’all’s story. It’s y’all’s entertainment. Y’all make a lot of stories about it. I play for wins and losses. There’s a lot of stuff in history that I have nothing to say about. That’s his story. It’s not my story."
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Gary Davenport | bleacherreport.com | November 23, 2015