- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2014

Redskins safety Ryan Clark remembers meeting Odell Beckham when he was 16 years old, then a blue-chip prospect at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans. He remembers attending LSU summer practices during the NFL lockout and watching Beckham, a rising freshman, snag one-handed catch after one-handed catch.

So for Clark, Beckham’s rise to stardom as a rookie with the New York Giants has come as no surprise.

“I’m a fan of his,” Clark said this week. “I’m a guy that roots for him.”

When the Redskins and Giants met at FedEx Field in Week 4, Eli Manning gashed Washington’s secondary for 300 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 45-14 victory. It was a dominant all-around performance for New York, a statement win on the road in a nationally-televised game on a Thursday night. And that was without Beckham, who was then sidelined by a hamstring injury and watched the game from his couch.

When the two teams meet again Sunday, this time at MetLife Stadium, the Redskins will get their first glimpse of Beckham, the No. 12 overall pick in April’s draft.

“He’s just a weapon that you have to deal with all the time,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s got a lot of targets after him. He’s excellent obviously when the ball is in the air and can make acrobatic catches. He can run, and he’s one of the top rookie receivers — one of the top receivers in the league right now. So he has to be dealt with.”

Despite missing the first four games of the season due to injury, Beckham still ranks among the league’s top rookie receivers. He’s tied for second among rookies with 59 catches, third with 829 yards and fourth with six touchdowns.

Beckham made a renowned touchdown catch in Week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys, cupping the ball with one hand and narrowly staying in bounds in the corner of the end zone. Some analysts have referred to the catch as not only the best of the season, but one of the best of all time.

Clark believes it all starts with Beckham’s genes. His mother, Heather Van Norman, was a six-time All-American sprinter at LSU. His father, Odell Beckham Sr., was a running back for the Tigers.

“The only thing else you could’ve did to make him is engineer him in a lab,” Clark joked. “So the fact that he’s good, I don’t know why we’re all surprised. It’s just how it works. Sometimes, it’s just nature.”

While Beckham’s physical ability has already set him apart in the NFL, Clark said he has also been impressed by the 22-year-old’s maturity. Because of a season-ending injury to Victor Cruz, Beckham has been pressed into the No. 1 receiving role ahead of schedule, but shined in that role for most of the season to this point.

“He’s a really good player. I think Eli has found that out, and he’s kind of become Eli’s security blanket,” Clark said. “So it’s going to be a huge challenge for us this week, to keep him corralled, not let him get over the top. Hopefully he won’t catch any more of the greatest catches in NFL football history.”

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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