He’s the most compelling and at times contradictory figure in football. And there’s nothing more compelling or contradictory than the notion that Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has resolved internal angst that caused him to contemplate retirement at age 24 by determining to play long enough to beat Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving yardage record.
Beckham explains in an interview with GQ that his personal goal is to play 10 more seasons “[o]r until I can pass Jerry [Rice]. That’s the goal: 23,000 yards.”
Rice’s all-time receiving yardage record stands at 22,965, to be precise. Through five seasons, Beckham has 5,476 yards. (Rice, through five years, had 6,364.) So Beckham needs 17,490 yards. At his current average rate of 1,095 per year, he’ll need to play 15 more years to get there — or until he’s 42. Then again, Rice played until he was 42.
To get there in only 10 years, Beckham needs to start ramping up his production, dramatically; he needs to average 1,749 receiving yards per year. To put that in perspective, 99 years of NFL history have produced only five seasons of 1,749 receiving yards or more: Calvin Johnson in 2012 (1,964); Julio Jones in 2015 (1,871); Jerry Rice in 1995 (1,848); Antonio Brown in 2015 (1,834); and Isaac Bruce in 1995 (1,781).
So it’s going to be very hard to get there in 15 years. It could be nearly impossible to do it in 10. And it would have been completely impossible to do it, if Beckham had given in to retirement temptations a couple of years ago.
“I could’ve done any sport in the world,” Beckham says during the interview. “Not many people know, but I used to talk to my momma and I’d be like, ‘Ma, if I was done doing this now, would you still be proud of me?’ And this was a couple of years ago, about two or three years ago.”
At the time, Beckham had grown weary of the game and “[e]verything around it.”
“To love something so much to a place where it is my everything, and to watch it be tainted, or all kinds of things be in the middle of it,” Beckham says. “Like, it hurt me to my soul. It be like loving someone and putting them on such a level to where life is about them and you love that person through anything. Through the good, the bad. And to watch them do something so heinous and vulgar. Something just so, like, almost unforgivable. You still love them, but it’s, like, Wow.”
It seems like Beckham considered retirement because he finally realized that football isn’t football but football is business, something he apparently didn’t realize while playing without pay at LSU.
“I said in college that I fear the day that they make the game I love a business and not just the game I love,” Beckham sayd. “And as I slowly, surely, seen that, it changed my heart about it. But then, at the same time, I have to feed my family. I have to set myself up for one day when I have kids — like, I need to set their future.”
And so Beckham had a dilemma, and he chose continuing to play a sport that is a business and not just the game he loves. The fact that it’s a business, or course, allows Beckham to feed him family, to set himself up for when he has kids, and to set their future.
Frankly, it sounds like Beckham was naive until he realized that football is a business, that he no longer is naive about that, and that he has made the business decision to continue to embrace a game that isn’t really a game but a business, long enough to take care of the business of breaking a record that seems to be unbreakable.