Johnny Football for a Week

Already in 2013 LSU has asked Odell Beckham Jr. to catch passes, run reverses and return kickoffs, punts and even a missed field goal. So simulating Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was just the next challenge in line. Beckham shares his experiences from being Johnny Football for a week.

Sometimes on a practice field you don't have to look far to put together an appropriate scout-team look, even when the goal is simulating one of the most exciting playmakers in college football history.

That's what the LSU staff found last week when tasked with identifying a purple-and-gold version of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, star quarterback of the Texas A&M Aggies squad that will line up opposite LSU in Tiger Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

Rather than combing through backup offensive players, the Tigers' brain trusts kept it simple during the bye week – electing to have their most dangerous player with the ball in his hands do his best send-up of Johnny Football.

The extra practice duties haven't bothered receiver Odell Beckham Jr., named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award on Monday, one bit.

"It was a lot of fun just to be running around, kind of like back in high school when you're running around and throwing the ball around," Beckham told reporters recently. "Actually, quarterback isn't all that bad."

Between the lines this fall, the Isidore Newman product and LSU football legacy has been one of the sports' most electrifying players in his own right. Through 10 games Beckham has hauled in 51 passes (already a personal best for the junior who caught 41 and 43 balls, respectively, in his first two seasons) for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. His 20.6 yards-per-reception average ranks sixth nationally, coincidentally two spots behind A&M's Mike Evans (22.2 ypr).

So channeling his inner-Manziel wasn't completely foreign territory for Beckham. As he explained it was more about bringing "wow" plays to a new position.

"Just make incredible plays," stated Beckham when asked how to get in the mindset. "It's crazy watching him make the plays that he makes. You just sit back and you really just say ‘Wow.' He really rolled out all the way left, rolled out all the way right, came back and threw it across his body. You don't see too many guys with the ability to make those plays."

Beckham also did what any good actor does when preparing for a new role, namely film study to better prepare himself for the subject.

"He does this little move where he'll fake running right, step back and roll back left. He did it like twice on one of the D-Linemen and made the D-Linemen fall," Beckham said, harking back to tape he watched of Texas A&M versus Mississippi State. "I tried to mimic some of his moves this weekend. I watched a little film on him. I was kind of excited for those periods."

For Beckham, who has played his way into a possible Roger Goodell handshake this April, it's all in a week's work. Although he does note that when you can play a style that takes its cues from a video game, structure – something Cam Cameron has brought to the LSU offense in spades in 2013 – isn't terribly important.

"You don't need a whole lot," explained Beckham. "As a receiver for him, it's a matter of just getting open because he's going to find you. He does a great job of finding guys late in plays and keeping plays alive. It's going to be a challenge for our defense, and I'm excited to see what they do with it."

The question now for Beckham, he of the missed field goal return for a touchdown, is will he be able to add to his in-game bag of tricks by chunking the pigskin like he did on the Ponderosa last week?

"I would love to throw a pass in a game," acknowledged Beckham with a smile. "I don't know if I'd either throw it or run it, but I know that I'd do my best to make a play."

Sounds a lot like Johnny Football to me.

Johnny Football for a Week


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