Four years ago Friday — Nov. 23, 2014 — Beckham made that leaping, gravity-defying one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys that changed his life. It put him in an unprecedented superstar stratosphere and left him needing to prove he was more than just that one spectacular grab.
“It’s bittersweet because I think my career is much more than one catch,” Beckham said Friday. “But it was a very iconic moment and just a prolific moment in my career. I don’t mind getting tagged on Instagram and seeing a bunch of nice catches. It gives me motivation to do something crazier.”
The catch came in the third quarter of his seventh career game. It led to almost immediate text conversations with Michael Jordan and a friendship with LeBron James that has gotten stronger in recent years.
It also made him a target of criticism and put him under a microscope, even among players around the NFL. After an incident with the Buffalo Bills during the 2015 season, cornerback Stephon Gilmore publicly stated a perception that Beckham is apparently still trying to disprove.
“His world is based on hype and that one catch,” Gilmore said at the time. “Everybody sees that, everybody knows him for that, and people don’t really look at the film and watch him and really don’t know what type of player he is.”
Beckham has since become the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history with a deal that could top $95 million. He is a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.
But despite his hefty paycheck and accomplishments, there will be a constant comparison to that one moment at the start of his career.
“Honestly, any time some one-hand catch comes up, anything happens comes up and you hear the talks. It’s funny when people are like, ‘He’s only this one-handed catch, blah, blah.’ Yet any time a catch happens, I’m compared to it,” Beckham said. “It was a moment that obviously changed my life forever, for better or for worse, whatever you want to call it. It changed my life.
“There is no way that I can ever forget about that moment. I can tell you, I remember the smell of the stadium. I can remember it all. So it’s a very special moment.”
Beckham started his career strong, but his star grew exponentially when he made that fingertip grab while being interfered with by Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr during a Sunday night game in 2014. He has talked in the past about how it put the spotlight on him in the often-ravenous New York market at such a young age.
Now just about every move he makes is scrutinized. But Beckham has still produced when he has been on the field. He has 69 catches for 932 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games entering Sunday’s matchup with the Eagles. He took the fewest games (45) to reach 300 career receptions in NFL history and second-fewest (54) to reach 5,000 receiving yards, and his 94.0 receiving yards per game is second all-time only to the Falcons‘ Julio Jones.
The biggest hole in Beckham’s resume is playoff success. He has appeared in just one career playoff game, and that didn’t go so well: He had four catches for 28 yards and a pair of drops against the Green Bay Packers in 2017.
Beckham, 26, still remains the litmus test for eye-popping catches. It’s not a terrible title to hold.
His next opportunity will be Sunday when the Giants (3-7) play in Lincoln Financial Field against the Eagles (4-6).