Odell Beckham Jr. Has Learned to Handle the Spotlight

WR Odell Beckham Jr. plays with his son, Zydn, at the Under Armour Performance Center.

The auditorium was crowded, the cameras were clicking, and the questions kept coming at Odell Beckham Jr. during his first press conference as a Raven on Thursday.

It was a typical scene for Beckham, who handled it as easily as he catches a football with one hand. His answers were thoughtful, he smiled often, and his excitement about joining the Ravens was obvious.

As one of the NFL's most recognizable faces, Beckham has learned to cope with the attention. After missing the 2022 season with an ACL injury, he's eager to reclaim his place as one of the game's top wide receivers.  

However, the glamour isn't what drives Beckham. Sometimes people look at him and see only the glitz, not the grind. They don't see the competitiveness that drives him, or the grueling work he's putting in now to make a full recovery from his second torn ACL.

At age 30, Beckham is joining the Ravens singularly focused on playing his best football and helping their quest to win a Super Bowl.

"For me, it was great to be in New York early in my career, and then I went to Cleveland, and I didn't have as much success, and then I went to L.A., and I had success," Beckham said. "At the end of the day, the common denominator between all of that was I cared about football. I cared about being great.

"I worked my entire life … since I was 4 years old, looking my mom in her eyes and telling her, 'I'm practicing for Sunday.' To me, it's always been about football. The big cities are great; they gave me extra opportunities off the field, but at the end of the day, I didn't care what was going on as long as I was catching touchdowns and having that hard work kind of pay off."

Former teammates talk about Beckham’s strong work ethic, his willingness to arrive early and stay late as a perfectionist who wants to run precise routes and develop unwavering chemistry with quarterbacks. 

He became an instant star with the Giants as a 21-year-old first-round pick with a flair for making spectacular catches. In four of his five seasons with New York, Beckham had more than 1,000 yards receiving. Some fans came to the stadium early just to catch his pre-game warmups.

However, the Giants only made the playoffs once during those five seasons, and Beckham was constantly under the microscope. He learned about the trappings of fame, but the experience made him wiser.

"I'll be honest, I've made mistakes in my past, but who hasn't as a young man who's got the entire world spotlighted on him?" Beckham said. "I always tell people [that] when I was out there making one-handed catches, I wasn't holding the camera and pointing at it [while] making the catch, saying, 'Look at me.' 

"I think the stories came more from over there, and then headlines came, and titles came and, 'Diva, drama,' this, whatever. But everyone who has ever met me, as far as a teammate … not that I know of anyone who is going to say anything bad. When I'm in the room with people, it's a completely different feel."

General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh both connected quickly with Beckham when they met with him a few weeks ago in Phoenix at the NFL Owners Meetings. His passion for football was obvious.

"Our fans are going to love watching Odell play football," DeCosta said. "He's 100 percent invested. That's one thing – as a scout – that we're always looking for is, 'Is this guy going to come in and be 100 percent invested in our program, and what we believe in and our culture?' I have to tell you, after two minutes in Arizona sitting across the table from Odell, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the right guy for the team." 

Harbaugh was impressed with Beckham during conversations they had late last season about the possibility of him joining the Ravens for a postseason run.

"That's what struck me more than anything, was just his honesty," Harbaugh said. "He was very much an open book in terms of what he was thinking, what he wanted to do, where he was going. [He was] not trying to sell anything. … I just was struck by his straightforwardness and honesty."

Beckham had a large contingent of family and friends at Thursday's press conference, and that loving unit keeps him grounded. His 1-year-old son Zydn threatened to steal the spotlight from his dad, and being a father has given Beckham a new perspective on what's most important.

"I can't express what he does for me," Beckham said. "When I look at him in his eyes, or [when] I haven't seen him in a couple hours, and I come home, and I could have had the worst day ever, and he's at the door [saying] 'Dada.' There are no words to describe that feeling. 

"It's just a different feeling when I have him in my arms, or he's running around, and I see the smile that's on his face. He's completely changed me forever."

Beckham gave no timetable on when he would be ready to take the field for offseason workouts or training camp. But whenever it happens, cameras will follow his every move. 

That's the norm for Beckham, an athlete with star power who will bring his electricity to Baltimore. Beckham appreciates the chance to begin a new chapter in his career, and he's ready for the ride.

"I'm just excited," Beckham said. "I'm excited, but I'm also very determined and hungry, so through the smiles there's still this eye that, 'I really want this badly.' I'm ready to be great, ready to be excellent again. I'm just ready for that opportunity."

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