2013 WINNER – ODELL BECKHAM, JR. (LSU)
By Jake Terry, LSU Associate Sports Information Director
LSU assistant coach and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey saw UAB was sending out its field goal unit late in the third quarter to attempt what would be close to a 60-yard attempt.
The move caught LSU by surprise as the defensive unit remained on the field. McGaughey yelled to head coach Les Miles that they should remove a defender from the field and insert wide receiver/return specialist Odell Beckham Jr. in the endzone just in case the field goal attempt was short.
Miles quickly agreed and McGaughey signaled for Beckham Jr. to hustle onto the field.
When UAB’s kicker blasted the ball on a 59-yard field goal attempt, it became apparent it was going to come up short. As the ball was approaching, two things raced through Beckham Jr.’s mind.
“I initially thought I would jump up and block it,” Beckham Jr. said after the game. “But when I saw the ball coming down and I realized I still had room to catch it, I knew I had to return it.”
After he snatched the missed field goal out of the air, Beckham Jr. began his return nine yards deep in the endzone and ran to the right. At the 10-yard line he weaved left, eluded one would-be tackler at the LSU 40-yard line and raced behind a wall of blockers all the way to the endzone for a 100-yard touchdown.
It marked the first time in school history that a Tiger returned a missed field goal for a touchdown, and at the time of the return it was believed to be the first missed field goal returned for a touchdown since 1968 when a Clemson player did it against Georgia.
For three seasons now at LSU, Beckham Jr. has displayed a skill level and versatility that is rarely seen, but for his family they could see it coming from a mile away.
After all, when you look at who his parents are, it makes a lot of sense.
Odell Beckham Sr. was a four-year letterwinner as a running back from 1989-92 at LSU. Heather Van Norman was a three-year competitor on the LSU Track and Field team where she was a six-time All-American and a member of national champion relays squads. She is now the head track and field coach at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
“I feel like I get a lot of my speed and running form from my mom,” Beckham Jr. said. “My dad blessed me with his football skills and IQ to play the game. My elusiveness I feel like I have from him. I have been blessed to have skills that come from both their strengths as athletes.”
Beckham Jr. was recruited to LSU as a wide receiver where he started nine games as a freshman in 2011 when the Tigers played in the BCS National Championship Game. He added punt and kickoff return duties as a sophomore, and he returned two punts for touchdowns in 2012, including his spectacular 89-yard return against Ole Miss.
But it has been his junior season where Beckham Jr. has truly blossomed. He has racked up 57 receptions for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns, and he added 30 kickoff returns for 806 yards (second most in a season at LSU).
Entering the Outback Bowl against Iowa, Beckham Jr. already shattered the LSU single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,222, breaking the previous record of 2,120 set by Domanick Davis in 2002.
In one of his most impressive performances, Beckham Jr. racked up 331 total all-purpose yards and four touchdowns against UAB – 136 receiving yards and three TDs, 100 yards on a missed field goal, 59 punt return yards, 21 yards on a kickoff return and 15 rushing yards.
Not only has Beckham Jr. shown his versatility when the lights are on in the stadium on Saturdays, he has also willingly displayed it during practice. In fact, he played a big role in prepping LSU for its dominant 34-10 win over Texas A&M. For two weeks leading up to the game, Beckham Jr. played the role of Johnny Manziel on the scout team offense that went up against the Tigers’ starting defense. He did that while also working at his normal receiver and return roles during practice.
His selflessness to help the team get better paid off as LSU held A&M under 300 yards of total offense and the fewest points (10) in the two seasons under coach Kevin Sumlin.
Beckham Jr.’s willingness to do whatever his team needs of him comes from his love for his university and his coaches and teammates.
“He was born to be a Tiger. It’s like it has come back full circle, like I’m watching myself all over,” Odell Beckham Sr. told CBS in an interview earlier this season.
From one of the most highly-recruited high school athletes in the country coming out of Newman High School in New Orleans to flourishing in many roles on the gridiron for the Tigers, Odell Beckham Jr. has continued to show why he was born to be a star.
“I bleed purple and gold, and it’s crazy to look at it and know I am playing in this jersey and playing where my dad played and where my mom ran track,” Beckham Jr. said. “It’s like a dream come true, and I am truly honored to be where I am today.”
Click here to view the 2014 Paul Hornung Award Banquet program.
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Five elite players were named finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse and given annually to the most versatile player in major college football. Running backs/return specialists Marion Grice (Arizona State University) and Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky University), wide receiver/return specialist Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), quarterback Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and linebacker/running back Myles Jack (UCLA) were selected as finalists for the award by a vote of 16 Selection Committee Members. Online fan voting counted for a 17th vote.
The five finalists combined for 10,101 all-purpose/passing yards and 84 touchdowns during the 2013 season and led their teams to a collective record of 37-13. Four of their teams were ranked in the BCS and AP Top 25: Texas A&M (number 12/9), UCLA (number 14/14), Arizona State (number 17/19) and LSU (number 22/18).
For the second consecutive season, Western Kentucky senior running back and all-purpose specialist Antonio Andrews earned a spot as a Paul Hornung Award finalist. Andrews is among the most prolific, multi-purpose players in college football, and currently is the FBS all-purpose leader with 2,192 yards, an average of 219.2 yards per game. Andrews has been used as WKU’s primary ball carrier, kick and punt returner, and has been a key part of the WKU receiving game this season. He maintained a 23-game streak with 100 or more all-purpose yards, nine games longer than any other player in the nation. Andrews compiled 5,343 all-purpose yards during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, ranking him fourth on the NCAA’s all-time list for all-purpose yards in a two-year span, and his 6,372 career all-purpose yards ranks 30th all-time in NCAA history. In 2013, Andrews had a season-high five scores and 291 all-purpose yards leading the Hilltoppers to a 58-17 victory over Morgan State. Andrews helped WKU (6-4) become bowl eligible for the third straight season following a 21-17 win over Army in West Point. The Hilltoppers also posted wins over FBS non-conference foes Kentucky (35-26 on Aug. 31) and Navy (19-7 on Sept. 28), putting themselves in position to earn their second straight bowl appearance in just the fifth year of bowl eligibility for WKU since making the transition to the FBS.
A four-time 2013 Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll Selection, Arizona State running back and kick return specialist Marion Grice piled up 1,673 all-purpose yards, recording 173 carries for 901 yards and 14 touchdowns, 43 receptions for 366 yards and six touchdowns, and 17 kick returns for 406 yards. He averaged 167.3 all-purpose yards per game for the 2013 season and is second in the nation in scoring with 120 points. Grice is second in the nation with 20 touchdowns and became the third Sun Devil in school history and just the 15th Pac-10/12 player in the past 36 seasons to score that many touchdowns. In ASU’s 32-30 upset win over Wisconsin at Sun Devil Stadium in week three of the season, Grice accounted for 198 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns: rushed 22 times for 84 yards, including a long run of 18 yards; caught five passes for 50 yards, including a long reception of 20 yards; added three kickoff returns for 64 yards, including a long of 23 yards. Grice added four touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ 62-41 early-season win over USC. His 20 touchdowns are within striking distance of the ASU single-season touchdown record of 22 held by legendary Wilford “Whizzer” White. Grice suffered a lower leg injury in the win over UCLA and did not play the final three games of the year.
UCLA linebacker and running back Myles Jack, a true freshman who established himself as a rock solid defender through the Bruin’s first eight games in 2013, sent notice that he would be a force on offense in just two games. Jack rushed for 120 yards on his first six carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run to help the injury-depleted Bruins beat Arizona 31-26 on Nov. 9. On defense, Jack had eight tackles, one tackle for a loss of 2 yards, two pass break-ups and recovered a fumble in the UCLA end zone as the Bruins won in Tucson for the first time since 2003. The following week, Jack started on offense and scored four rushing touchdowns – the most in a game for a Bruin freshman – as UCLA stayed in control of its destiny in the Pac-12 South race with a 41-31 victory over Washington. Jack also had five tackles and one pass break-up in stellar duty for the defense against the Huskies. Earlier in the 2013 season his interception with 16 seconds left sealed UCLA’s 34-27 road win over Utah. Jack turned in a rock-solid defensive performance in the Bruins’ 42-14 Sun Bowl win over Virginia Tech, including a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Through 10 games as a third-year sophomore, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel entered the discussion as the national’s most versatile player by racking up huge yardage and touchdowns, playing big in the big games and leading the Aggies to immediate respect in the toughest of all conferences, the SEC. Manziel finished the 2013 regular season as the SEC leader in total offense per game (368.2), total yards (4,418), touchdowns (41), passing yards per game (311.0), completion percentage (69.1), total passing yards (3,732), completions (270) and passing TDs (33). Manziel lived up to expectations against Alabama by accumulating 562 total yards of offense in a 49-42 losing effort at home to the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide. Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans connected three times for long passes on A&M’s first two drives, setting up two short touchdowns that put the Aggies up 14-0 halfway through the first quarter. Manziel went 28-for-39 passing and racked up 464 yards through the air for five touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times for 98 yards. In the 2013 season Manziel threw for 400+ yards in four games, 300+ yards in two games, rushed for 100+ yards twice and accounted for four touchdowns or more in six games, generated 300+ yards in every game he started and rushed or passed for at least two touchdowns in every game. In the postseason, Manziel lit up the scoreboard and his teammates in an emotional, come-from-behind Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Duke. “Johnny Football” completed 30-38 passes for 38 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards and a touchdown as the Aggies overcame a 38-17 halftime deficit to win 52-48.