Senior writer Seth Wickersham profiles New York Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the cover story of ESPN The Magazine’s NFL Preview issue. The full story is available on ESPN.com and in The Magazine‘s latest edition (on newsstands Friday).
Wickersham, the award-winning writer who has penned memorable NFL stories for ESPN on Tom Brady, Y.A. Tittle and others in recent years, shared some insights below about his time profiling Beckham, one of pro football’s biggest stars.
“Odell is one of the rare professional athletes who has not only been mythologized, but mythologized beyond sports. And so my goal with the story was to honor his myth, but portray his reality. Part of that meant to show how difficult fame has been for him, but another part of that was to try to get to the root of his greatness. I didn’t write about this in the story, but I found it on a wall in the locker room of his former high school.
“I was there on a June day [in New Orleans] with Nelson Stewart, his old high school coach. He showed me the football field first, and the right corner of one of the end zones where he used to call a special play for Odell — a play Stewart hasn’t called since Odell left. Then we went into the locker room, which has photos in addition to lockers. The photos are of alums, and there are some famous ones, like Peyton and Eli Manning.
“Stewart likes to populate one wall in the locker room with photos of all of the Isidore [Newman School] athletes who’ve played college football, and when it comes to Odell, he chose a picture not of one of his trademark one-handed catches but of him at practice, in high school, the most competitive and intense player that Stewart has ever coached. I found that fascinating, and yet also fitting. That’s the legacy — and the mythology — that Odell wanted to leave.”