The LSU Tigers offense continues to blossom under new coordinator Cam Cameron’s leadership and style, with quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. once again commanding the spotlight with impressive play that now has someone furiously adding to the record books.
Facing the UAB Blazers at home in Death Valley Saturday, Mettenberger threw 5 touchdowns, an LSU record, thanks in large part to the hands, instincts and speed of Beckham Jr.
In an electrifying performance, Beckham Jr. racked up 331 yards, 3rd-highest total in school history.
He became the first LSU Tiger to return a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown, which ties for the longest scoring play in LSU history. (Technically, the NCAA starts counting at the goal line on anything that starts in the end zone, so it will count as 100-yards.)
Beckham Jr. leads the nation with 301 all-purpose yards per game and scooped up SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
As some start whispering about Heisman Trophy considerations, Beckham Jr. quietly says that he’s just enjoying the ride.
“The feeling I had of being in Tiger Stadium and making plays, makes you feel like you’re a kid back on the playground again,” Beckham Jr. said.
After all, Beckham Jr. literally grew up in and around Tiger Stadium. His athletic ability is no accident: his father, Odell Beckham Sr., was a standout running back for the Tigers, and his mother, Heather Van Norman, is one of the Purple and Gold’s most highly decorated sprinters.
Early in 1992, the two student-athletes discovered Van Norman was pregnant. She was coming off a national championship for the Lady Tigers, training for the Olympic trials. She continued training in some fashion, up until the day she delivered in the middle of the ’92 football season. Van Norman and Beckham Sr. shared parenting duties, taking the baby to classes, practices, athletic dorms – surrounding him with LSU athletes and icons. Somewhere along the way, Beckham Jr. seems to have soaked up life lessons on how to be a winner.
“Very talented. ‘Nifty’ is a great word for him. ‘Explosive’ is a great word for him. He says, ‘You know what, if I just beat that guy, this might go all the way,’ or ‘If I can just get to the ball, I’ll make that catch.’ He has that intangible that really some of the very best players around have,” head coach Les Miles said.
Beckham Jr.’s parents have warned him about the spotlight, reminded him of how quickly social media can burn. He graduated from Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, following in the footsteps of Peyton and Eli Manning, excelling both athletically and academically. Beckham Jr.’s maturity is working in his favor.
“He doesn’t really talk all the time. It’s not like he leads the team by standing in front of the team and saying ‘Listen, there are some thing things I want to tell you,” Miles said. “But anyone that watches him practice has got to be impressed with what he does. That, to me, is his leadership quality. He has the ability to speak, but more than not, he lets his play determine his presence and leadership.”
That’s certainly the attitude Beckham Jr. is adopting when the Heisman talk surfaces.
“It’s not something I think about at all. It’s only Week Two,” said Beckham Jr. “We’ve got Kent State next. We’re trying to focus on that.”
“He doesn’t like me saying, but I think he’s making his case for the Heisman right now,” linebacker Lamin Barrow said. “He has a game like this and you carry it into next week and the SEC schedule. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing, I don’t see why not.”