It can happen in an instant.
In the NFL, careers can be both made and undone in the span of one play. David Tyree's time in the league was spent almost entirely in anonymity. He tallied fewer than 1,000 receiving yards over his entire career.
Yet thanks to one catch in Super Bowl XLII, Tyree's name is forever etched in NFL history.
Last year at this time, another New York Giants pass-catcher made some NFL history of his own. The stakes may not have been quite as high, but on a Sunday evening at MetLife Stadium, a rookie receiver made a play so eye-popping that Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, "In 22 years of covering the NFL, I have seen many amazing things in person at games. Hail Marys to win games. Two 80-yard runs in the same game by Barry Sanders. You think you've seen it all until you see that."
In that instant, a superstar was born.
This is an oral remembrance of Odell Beckham Jr. and "the catch heard round the world."
Beckham may have become a superstar on that November night one year ago against the rival Dallas Cowboys, but the former LSU star was hardly anonymous before that.
Beckham was the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft after breaking the single-season all-purpose yardage record at Louisiana State the year before. A hamstring injury cost Beckham all of training camp and the first month of the 2014 season, but he was picking up steam long before that fateful home tilt against Dallas.
Beckham caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in his first NFL start against the Atlanta Falcons. Two weeks later, he reeled in two more scoring grabs in a loss in Dallas. In the three games between the Giants' two meetings with the Cowboys in 2014, Beckham averaged seven grabs for 119 yards.
It was hardly as if nobody knew who Odell Beckham was.
But everyone and his or her mother was about to find out.
Odell Beckham: "It’s kind of one of those things—it’s changed my life forever, and not in a bad way."
Beckham may have been enjoying a fair amount of individual success as a rookie last year, but the same could not be said for his team.
After starting the season 3-2, a banged-up Giants team limped into MetLife Stadium in Week 12 having dropped five games in a row. In a Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a horrific knee injury from which he still has not returned.
At 3-7, Big Blue was playing for little more than pride when the division-leading Cowboys came to town for a Sunday night showdown.
In a season in which not much had gone right for the Giants, the game started well. Quarterback Eli Manning found Beckham for a three-yard touchdown early. As the first quarter turned into the second, the Giants held a 7-3 lead and had driven just inside Dallas territory.
And then it happened.
On 1st-and-10 from the Dallas 43, Manning heaved a ball down the right sideline. As Beckham went up for the football, he and Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr got tangled up. Flags flew.
Victor Cruz, Giants wide receiver (on injured reserve at the time): "I was there—I was actually up top [in a suite] watching the game."
Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive vice president: "I was in the box with our family and a few guests, some of our executives. There was a flag down, so I knew it was going to be a play against us. I thought it was a defensive pass interference call. But then I thought the ball was over his head and maybe was uncatchable."
Justin Pugh, Giants offensive lineman: "So I’m on the sideline as a spectator, and [Manning] throws the ball up, and I see [Beckham] get grabbed. So I’m screaming, 'That’s a penalty! That’s a penalty!'"
Rod Marinelli, Cowboys defensive coordinator: "We were in man. Brandon [Carr] was in pretty good position all the way through. He could have snapped his head a little quicker. But the position was everything. Then, I thought he stumbled a little."
Zak DeOssie, Giants long snapper: "I was right there on the sideline, warming up for field goals because we were in field-goal territory. Then, I saw the referee reach for his flag because the defender was all over him, so I threw my hands up to celebrate because I was thinking it was pass interference."
Mark Herzlich, Giants Linebacker: "I was watching on the sideline, and all I remember is yelling, 'It’s a penalty! He’s holding him! That’s a penalty!' So I’m pumped because I saw the flag go out, and I knew we were going to get a pass interference call. But honestly? I didn’t expect him to catch it—I thought it was going to go over his head."
Of course, Beckham did catch the ball—if by "catch" you mean that he reached behind himself and plucked the ball from the air like a big, brown piece of fruit.
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins wide receiver and college teammate of Beckham: "He worked through the defender, stayed in bounds, and then he laid out in the air. I saw him reaching out and trying to make the play, and that ball is sticking on those three fingers. That’s what I remember. With his hand size and his hand strength and the awareness he has to get even a fingertip on a ball, the chances of him catching a ball like that are through the roof. The thing is, he can catch just as good with one hand as with two."
Stephen Jones: "Somebody said, 'No, he caught that ball.' I said, 'What?' I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the board. I said, 'Holy cow.' It has to be the best catch I’ve ever seen."
Mark Herzlich: "He reached up and made that unbelievable catch, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' And I turned around and just said to whoever was around and was like, 'Did you just see what happened? Did you see that? Did you see that?' It was that type of thing where all through the extra point it was 'Did you see that? Did you see what just happened?' Everyone just looked up at the replay, and it was amazing."
Victor Cruz: "As soon as it happened, I kind of looked up, and I was like, 'That’s probably the best catch I’ve ever seen, hands down.' I’ve been around football all of my life and been a part of a lot of great games and been a part of a lot of great catches myself, so I’ve seen a lot, but that catch was by far the best one I’ve ever seen."
Weston Richburg, Giants offensive lineman: "I thought they would find something to overturn it. But the more times that play was shown on the scoreboard, you’re like, 'Man, he really did catch that! It did not touch the ground.' Then, a few days later, you realize that he caught it with what, three fingers?"
Josh Brown, Giants kicker and 13-year NFL veteran: "My first reaction was incomplete pass. I didn’t see it, and I don’t think everyone in the stands really understood what they just saw because there wasn’t this massive explosion of celebration. There was more of 'Did that just happen?' And so I thought, 'Incomplete pass,' and I walked away. Then, I found out that he caught that ball, and I was like, 'How did he get his hands on that?'"
Rod Marinelli: "My reaction? Get the kickoff return team ready. When you are in position and playing your tail off, great players are going to make great plays. Like a great linebacker versus a great tailback—all of a sudden, the guy runs over him. Things happen. The guy made an unbelievable catch because he can jump, and to catch that ball like that—wow."
Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants defensive end: "I was not looking. I saw it a couple of times on the scoreboard, and it was a great catch—probably one of the greatest catches ever."
Rashad Jennings, Giants running back: "I was just stunned. One, I was like, 'Did he catch it?' Two, 'Was he in?' And three, 'Is there a flag?' That was one of the greatest catches of all time."
Eli Manning, Giants quarterback: "Yeah, I knew he caught it. I could see. He does that. He practices that one-handed snag. He’s got big hands and great concentration, and he can make those plays. That was a pretty great one."
Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach: "He’s got a gift—there’s no doubt. I’ve seen him make a lot of one-handed catches, to be honest with you. But none falling down like that, going away and being able to snatch the ball like that and then stay in bounds after being fouled. That was quite a thing, too. It gave us a great spark, and it does that when people make plays like that. It excites the sideline, and the team gets excited about it, and we were."
Brad Wing, Giants punter and Beckham's roommate at LSU: "It was unreal and kind of the same experience as Josh said—did that really happen on Sunday Night Football? I had seen him do that in practice and in the parking lot, so when it happened, it was just unbelievable. Although I had seen it before, it was still very jaw-dropping. Just unreal."
Charean Williams, Cowboys columnist, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I was sitting in the press box nearest the end zone 'where it happened.' None of us thought he had caught it. I saw the flag first and then saw the official's arms go up to signal touchdown. It was disbelief. 'He caught that?!' There was no way he caught that. I thought the ball was thrown five yards out of bounds. My vision quickly shot to the TV replay, which was a few seconds behind, and I saw him come down with the ball."
Cris Carter, ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame receiver: "I thought it was a great catch, one of those perfect-storm moments. The trajectory of the ball, the glove—it all came together. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of catches. It was thrown to the only place he could catch it."
Josh Brown: "Yeah, I mean, I’m walking out onto the field, and I’m not even thinking about my job [the PAT]. I’m like, 'How was he able to do that?' That was like a Spider-Man move. It really was a phenomenal moment to be a part of and to witness and be a part of the atmosphere and energy that it brought to the stadium."
Rashad Jennings: "You erupt. You practice so much, play so much, and then to have an opportunity to make a catch like that, it just makes the sideline feel like it can take over the game."
Weston Richburg: "There were a lot of guys who were shocked that it happened. It was good for the guys and was definitely motivating for us."
Justin Pugh: "It was pure mayhem. Just nothing I've ever seen before, either playing or as a fan."
Jason Pierre-Paul: "It brought a lot of emotion and effort. It just took us to a whole new level. We lost that game (31-28), but we just knew what we had in him."
Weston Richburg: "Um, maybe you see that when kids are messing around and stuff like that—you know, they’re wearing Stickum on the hands and stuff like that. In an actual game, it was cool to see that."
Rashad Jennings: "He practiced those catches all the time, but you never think that kind of catch is going to come up in a game, but it did. Just when you think you’ve seen everything in this game, along comes something else. That’s why this game is something else and why you love it."
Brandon Carr, Cowboys cornerback: "It was a great catch. I’m not going to entertain this one. I’m not the right one to talk about it. There is nothing to talk about. It’s y’all’s story. It’s y’all’s entertainment. Y’all make a lot of stories about it. I play for wins and losses. There’s a lot of stuff in history that I have nothing to say about. That’s his story. It’s not my story."
Carr might not have had much to say about Beckham's catch, but he was just about the only person who didn't. In that respect, Beckham's grab is a product of the social-media age in which it happened.
Twitter went completely bananas afterward. Whether it was current NFL stars:
Hall of Fame wide receivers:
The world's most famous athlete:
Everyone had a take on not just the catch but also how it stacks up against other all-time-great grabs.
Mark Herzlich: "That’s kind of like David Tyree’s [helmet] catch [in 2007]. I was watching the Super Bowl from at home, and I was like, 'He just caught that on the top of his helmet!' And some guys have caught the ball behind another player's back and those type of plays—there’s no way they should have caught it, but they had the concentration and were able to catch it."
Justin Pugh: "You can’t compare. Tyree’s was insane as well. I guess you can look at the circumstances regarding Tyree’s catch, how that helped win your team the Super Bowl. It’s insane. I think the top two catches in NFL history were both made by the Giants."
Zak DeOssie: "Athletically, it was the best catch I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t a Super Bowl, but I’m confident he could do something like that in a Super Bowl, too."
Jason Pierre-Paul: "I had a catch like that one time—nah, just kidding."
Josh Brown: "I feel like I’ve had some great receivers, guys that were seasoned—I even had a year with Jerry Rice, who was toward the tail end of his career, so he wasn’t jumping like that and doing those kinds of things. But I’ve seen guys like Koren Robinson (Seattle Seahawks) and guys like that make acrobatic catches, but just the ability and attitude that (Beckham) carries—he enjoys that. The things I’ve been able to see him do in just his short, two-year career—there are some things that just flat out don’t make sense. It’s really a testament to his athletic ability and the gifts he’s been given."
A.J. Green: "I thought it was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen. It was amazing. I saw Randy Moss make a lot of great catches. The catch DeAndre Hopkins made that was called back was pretty amazing. In this day and age, there are really athletic receivers making really good catches. It’s a different generation."
Jarvis Landry: "I was amazed and impressed. But I shook my head. I said, 'I’ve seen him make way better catches than that, crazier things than that.' We talk about it. We don’t surprise each other anymore. It’s kind of expected."
Cris Carter: "I think he’s a good receiver. But I think it was a lucky catch. I think it was just one young player making a play. There was a lot of luck involved in it. A lot of things had to happen for that catch to happen. I wasn’t blown away because I know what the gloves can do. I know what I can do wearing the gloves even at 50. I wear the gloves when I train kids. I know. With the technology of the gloves, it’s totally different."
Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report NFL analyst: "One play is just one play, and exceptional plays are usually nothing more than entertainment in terms of that big picture. But the moment Beckham caught that pass and a couple of replays revealed it to be a catch even within the confines of the NFL's silly rules, everyone covering that game knew that the story of the night now had nothing to do with the Giants or the Cowboys and everything to do with Odell Beckham Jr."
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report NFL national lead writer: "I really had no idea that I would be contributing to a 'Where Were You?' segment about it a year later like it was the moon landing. It was a breathtaking catch, but the sheer amount of folklore around it is the New York media taking everything to its usual place well beyond the realm of sanity. If Mike Evans made the same catch in Tampa, I would not be typing this right now."
Odell Beckham: "Things haven’t been the same. That catch has drawn a lot of attention toward me. I still get jokes about it, I still hear about it all the time, and I don’t think it’s something that is going to leave my life. But hopefully at some point in time, the career will overtake the one catch."
There's no question that Beckham's catch on that November evening one year ago made the youngster an overnight sensation. But he hasn't rested on his laurels since. Beckham's last four games a year ago (43 catches for 606 yards and seven touchdowns) made for one of the greatest stretches in NFL history. In 2015, his 63 catches (seventh) and 863 yards (fifth) entering Week 11 both rank inside the top 10. Only Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert entered the week with more touchdown catches this year than Beckham's eight.
Mark Herzlich: "It’s like, every now and then, a guy will make a really amazing play, and you’re like, 'OK.' Kind of like a '90s band with a one-hit wonder—who knows if it will happen again? But he keeps making those kinds of plays."
Jon Beason, Giants linebacker: "Odell has a long way to go as he continues to wow and impress people with his jaw-dropping catches, but I must say, if anyone has a chance of dethroning the GOAT Jerry Rice, I'd bet on no other than Odell Beckham Jr."
Weston Richburg: "He does that all the time now. I know he talked about it a lot—it’s a cool thing. But he’s so much more than that. I really think he’s a good player, and that just kind of let people know who he is. But he’s so much more than just a one-handed catch."
Jason Pierre-Paul: "I just think he’s an awesome player. In this game of football, you’ve got a one-of-a-kind at each position, and what he brings to the table is a lot. I don’t think any receiver can do what he does. I see him make one-handed catches, and it’s, like, hard to do that. But he’s on top of his game, and he’s not letting anyone worry him or whatever, so I think that’s great."
Josh Brown: "I think it [the catch] identifies the magnitude of the weapon he is. I think it identifies just how pivotal his involvement will be to the success to this team. For him to carry himself the way he does in here and to be as humble as I’ve seen him be, it’s pretty remarkable."
Brad Wing: "He’s obsessed with being perfect. We talk about it all the time. Even after that game, he’ll tell you about areas of the game that he feels he needs to improve. He’s not worried about the big catch he made; he’s worried about the catches he didn’t make. That’s how he’s been since I’ve known him. I think that’s why he is the way he is. Any guy that makes a catch like that is not going to be remembered just for that catch, because to make that catch, you have to have abilities that are out of this world, and he does. He’s a lot more than just that catch, and I think people outside of New York might think that’s all he is, but I think once you start to watch him, and you see that he does it every freaking time, maybe you’ll realize that this kid really is something special. He’s got a bright future ahead of him."
Eli Manning: "I’ve been impressed with his work ethic. Everything he’s done, from his practices, his preparation—it’s not a surprise that he’s had success on the field [since the catch]. I’ve just been impressed with everything he’s done to get himself to this point."
Victor Cruz: "It makes it easy every day you come to work. Especially with him, every day is something new, every day is a new adventure with him—with all of us in the meeting room. We all come in and are excited to come to work and spend time with each other in the meeting room and in the locker room. Those are always fun times."
Odell Beckham: "It’s that internal drive. I’m chasing to be perfect. You can’t be perfect, but you know the Lombardi quote. ['Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.'] I would never let one play define who I am as a person or who I am as a football player. There’s so much more growing and maturing that I have to do. I think that’s kind of the motivation for me.”
Tom Coughlin: "[The future is] bright, I think. He’s got all the tools."
Cowboys, Green, Carter quotes obtained by Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei.
Giants quotes obtained by Bleacher Report's Patricia Traina.
All other quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter, @IDPSharks.