EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He isn't showing off. This is a thing worth knowing about Odell Beckham Jr. He wears his hair in unruly bronze sprouts because he likes it. He keeps quiet in the locker room. And those one-handed catches he's making in the end zone during pregame warm-ups aren't for show. They're a purposeful practice technique.
"It gets to a point where you have so much confidence in your hands that you have to try a way to challenge yourself," Beckham, the New York Giants' star wide receiver, explained in a recent conversation. "You feel like you already caught it, you don't need to look the ball in, you look away and you start having drops, and it's not because you can't catch, it's just a lack of focus.
"So for me, doing those one-handed catches, it not only helps you when the time comes to catch one-handed, it intensifies your focus more in terms of just looking the ball all the way into your hands."
He used to catch the ball with two hands, of course. His coaches always told him to use two, and he's not the kind to defy his coaches, so two it was until he got to LSU and met Jarvis Landry. Fast friends and fellow wideouts, the pair embarked on the quest for the toughest catch imaginable. Lots of wide receivers incorporate one-handers into their drills, but Landry and Beckham elevated it to a competitive art form, challenging each other each day to see who could make the more ridiculous grab.
But it's all practical, not preening. Beckham's practice antics might come off as unnecessary, but everything has a purpose. Dribbling and juggling a football with his feet, soccer-style, helps him maintain control of his footwork. Spinning a football like a top and kicking a field goal without a holder? Coordination. Timing. He's having fun, sure, but he's also keeping his whole body in tune.
"I have to be moving," he said. "If I'm not doing something, I'm not getting better."
While Beckham drills the details, the NFL world awaits an encore. After missing the first four games of his 2014 rookie season with a hamstring injury, Beckham went straight into hyperdrive, catching 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns over the final 12 games of an otherwise drab Giants season. Those are NFL records for catches and receiving yards in the first 12 games of a career. Projected over a full season, they work out to 121 catches for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns, which would be the 10th-, fifth- and 14th-best totals in league history.
Beckham's success, highlighted by that burned-on-your-brain, one-handed touchdown in a Sunday night game against Dallas, made him one of sports' biggest stars. Helped him beat out beloved goofball Rob Gronkowski for the "Madden" cover. Set his elbows to rubbing those of LeBron James, Drake, David Beckham and Anna Wintour. Propelled him on an offseason tour of Super Bowl parties and fashion shows. Changed his life.
"Sometimes you miss being able to go to Wal-Mart and get a quick snack," he says with the sly smile of a guy who knows no one wants to hear him complain. "You don't really have privacy anymore.
"I can't really hide with this on my head anyway," he added, pointing to his hair.
The numbers, the fame and the speed of Beckham's ascent are all dazzling. So as he prepares for a second NFL season, it would be natural to wonder what he could possibly do to live up to it all.
"Not everybody can say they witnessed an overnight turn like that," teammate Rashad Jennings said. "But none of it's getting to his head."
It had better not. Because as brilliant as Beckham's debut season was, he wouldn't be the first young NFL star who failed to follow it up. For every Randy Moss, there's a Michael Clayton.
Defenses will key on Beckham to an even greater extent. Off-field demands on his time and attention will skyrocket. Expectations from fans, coaches and teammates already are teetering like the temporary bleachers that nearly gave out during his post-practice autograph session on the first day of this year's training camp.
So what matters right now is that he's out on the field, running his routes, catching passes from Eli Manning, talking trash to the Giants defensive backs who are trying to cover him. Beckham couldn't practice in camp last year, and now he can't get enough of it.
"He's played 12 games in the NFL," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said. "It's critical, and he understands, that there's plenty of room for improvement. Whether it's consistently beating man-press at the line of scrimmage with his releases, his routes, his top of the routes, his finishes ... I think there's every aspect of the game that he can improve on."
Beckham's talent doesn't hide. Jennings remembers being in OTAs last year for Beckham's first practice and whacking running back Peyton Hillis on the shoulder and saying, "Did you see this kid just run that slant?" Former Cowboys defensive back Darren Woodson, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, was helping Michael Irvin coach at the Pro Bowl last year and recalls defensive back Joe Haden coming back to the sideline, shaking his head during practice after trying to cover Beckham.
"We tell defensive backs, 'Watch the receiver's hips, not his eyes, because the hips don't lie,'" a wide-eyed Woodson said. "But this guy ... his hips lie!"
There's a fluidity to Beckham's movement that makes his hips so deceitful. He moves like animated Jell-O -- all curves, no angles. A tackler locks onto a target that instantly vanishes, because Beckham's next three moves are already underway, and the transitions between them are undetectable. Could be this is where all that casual soccer practice comes in.
The disingenuous hips, the speed, the instincts, the unusually long fingers ... Beckham's athletic bona fides are well established. Even the potential drawbacks that showed up in the 2014 draft process -- those seven bench-press reps at the combine that got folks worried about his strength -- seem to have been answered. Ryan, who played defensive back in college, sometimes goes out in practice to give his receivers man-press looks with his own hands. So he has first-hand experience with Beckham's surprising strength.
"When he puts his hands on you to get your hands off of him, he's got strength," Ryan said. "Strength is not a factor. He's very physical with his hands, and I think DBs will have trouble getting their hands and keeping them on there, because I think he'll make an effort to keep them off, and he'll do it aggressively."
Aside from the potential man-press specifics, there is a general belief that opposing defenses will focus more of their attention and energy on Beckham this year. He's sure to see double-teams and safety help and all manner of potential obstacles designed to keep him from wrecking games the way he did all through November and December.
Beckham has no specific plan to combat this, because ... well, frankly, he's not buying it.
"I personally don't think that's going to be able to work," Beckham said. "I think teams are going to have to be true to their defense and stick to what they do already. Otherwise, you've got Victor [Cruz], you've got [Rueben Randle], all the other guys we have on offense. So I don't see it working in terms of what people are talking about in terms of double-teams or whatever."
Honestly, teams were doubling Beckham last December, with Cruz hurt, Randle in the doghouse and the likes of Kevin Ogletree and Preston Parker trying to catch Manning's eye. And Beckham still averaged 11 catches, 152 yards and nearly two touchdowns a game over the season's final month.
Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver got a good look at Beckham in November, when Culliver was playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Beckham caught six passes for 93 yards in a Giants loss. Randle hauled in seven catches for 112 yards.
"He's real fast and has good speed," Culliver said of Beckham. "He gets in and out of breaks good. They also have Victor Cruz, Randle. They have a good receiving corps. Just take away their vertical threats and try to make anything in our favor."
With Cruz, Randle, tight end Larry Donnell and running back Shane Vereen, the Giants believe they have a strong collection of passing-game threats around Beckham. And they believe him when he says he's fine with teams taking him out of the game if that means more success for everyone else.
"Absolutely," Jennings said. "He's a team player. And as a competitor, he's probably just going to find another way to get open."
What can stop him? Well, another injury, of course. Beckham missed minicamp with a hamstring issue and is taking it slowly early in camp to make sure last year doesn't repeat itself. He's on the field, though, which is more than he could say last year in camp, and when he's out on the field there aren't too many things he thinks can stop him.
"I guess just try and get me mad or something, try and get me out of my game," Beckham offered by way of suggestion. "I talked a lot last year about just having mental strength and being able to control your emotions.
"I feel like I've been a lot better about it, maybe because we haven't been in a game or playing against another team. I don't know. I just genuinely love playing football, have such a passion for it, that it's hard sometimes not to be frustrated with something not going right. But it comes with the game, and you just take it and learn from it."
He is only 22 and has become insanely famous in an insanely short period of time. The pitfalls of the road on which he's taking his next steps are numerous and deep. There's no way to be sure he'll be able to repeat or even approach what he did in his first year -- this year or ever again.
But if you're a teammate or a coach or a Giants fan, Beckham behind the scenes has given you plenty of reason to think it's all going to be OK. When he's in the building and on the field, he's about the work.
"He's a hard-working kid, he really is, and the main thing about him is he's a competitor," Jennings said. "So when you have somebody who's a competitor, it's irrelevant how they got from Point A to Point B. It's irrelevant what car you drive. It's irrelevant what team you play for. It's irrelevant where you're from. When you're a competitor, the only thing you want to do is win. So that alone is the reason you don't have to worry about Odell."