Jets rookie Smith had Beckham-like catch before Beckham
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
May. 09, 2015
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — A jaw-dropping, one-handed, leaping touchdown grab that sent Twitter buzzing and instantly became a staple of the highlight reels.
Devin Smith did it long before Odell Beckham Jr. And the New York Jets' rookie wide receiver thinks his catch was even better.
He might be a bit biased, of course. But back in 2012, Smith's ridiculous reception for Ohio State was all over the place. He went on a go-route against Miami of Ohio, took off for the end zone and Braxton Miller launched the football.
"At first, when the ball was in the air, I was like, 'Oh, man, it's about to go over my head,'" Smith recalled Saturday before rookie minicamp practice. "Once it started getting a little closer, I was thinking that maybe I could go get it. The only thing I could do was throw up that one hand.
"And I caught it."
He sure did. Smith jumped, put up his right arm and was able to somehow snag the ball, then spun and fell to the turf in the end zone before he popped back up to celebrate the 23-yard TD play.
"I hope I make SportsCenter's Top 10," he recalled thinking at the time.
Even better, Smith's catch became a YouTube sensation, with tens of thousands clicking on the various versions posted by fans. Two years later, people were checking it out again after Beckham made his acrobatic one-handed TD catch for the Giants during a Sunday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys last November.
"I was at a friend's house when I saw that," Smith said. "Everyone started tweeting me, like, 'Oh, Devin did it first.' So it kind of reminded me a little bit of what I did."
As a connoisseur of fine catches, what did Smith think?
"I thought it was great," he said. "It was nice."
But whose grab was better?
"Probably mine," a smiling Smith said.
The guy certainly doesn't lack confidence, just one of the qualities that made him so appealing to the Jets, who took him with the fifth pick in the second round and 37th overall.
"They were both about the same, I guess, depending on who was on what team and who won the game," Jets coach Todd Bowles said of Smith and Beckham. "They were both great one-handed catches, and there will probably be many more."
For New York, big plays are exactly what they're hoping for from Smith. Brandon Marshall was added in the offseason to team with Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, but New York entered the draft with a need for speed — so they pounced on Smith.
"Obviously, I can go deep," Smith said of what he brings to the team. "I can stretch the field. My big-play ability, not just on offense but on special teams, too."
In four seasons at Ohio State, the 6-foot-1, 199-pound Smith had 121 receptions for 2,503 yards and 30 touchdowns, a mark that stands second in school history — only four behind Hall of Famer Cris Carter. As a senior, a whopping 12 of his 33 receptions in 15 games for the national champions went for scores. His mark of 28.2 yards per catch was a school record and led NCAA receivers.
Still, there were some critics entering the draft who labeled Smith a "one-trick pony," a fast guy who can outrun defensive backs but might struggle against press coverages in the pros and needs work on route running and playing in the middle of the field.
"I really don't worry about it because I know how good I am," Smith said. "I wouldn't be here, obviously, if I couldn't do anything. I really don't worry about it. I just keep playing my game, doing what I do, keep making plays and just have fun."
He insisted he can play underneath in coverage if he needs to, and that he did it "plenty of times" for coach Urban Meyer's Ohio State team.
"The offense we were in, though, we wanted to take our shots and go deep," Smith said. "So that's what we did."
Ten of Smith's touchdowns last season were for 30 yards or more, and seven of his career scores were of at least 50 yards. He drew comparisons to DeSean Jackson for his playmaking abilities, and that's the kind of vertical threat the Jets haven't had in several years.
Smith showed a little of that during his first practice Friday when he caught a deep pass from Jake Heaps, a non-roster tryout from Miami.
"He's a tough kid, he's smart," Bowles said of Smith. "He's a hard worker, and that's what I like about him. We'll see going forward what he does."
Smith's catch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDEm16yRI1E