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Odell Beckham Jr. feels the love from Browns fans on Day 1, repays them with spectacular catches

BEREA — Odell Beckham Jr. walked out of team headquarters and onto the practice field, shuffled into a jog and heard the chants for the first time.

“O-B-J. O-B-J.”

The excitement and expectations surrounding the Browns are elevated — fans were lined up hours before the first training camp practice started Thursday morning — and Beckham is a primary reason. In his first public practice since joining the Browns in a March trade, he was the center of attention and the star of the show.

Every drill, route and catch was treated as can’t-miss. Young fans urged him to snatch the ball with one hand. Grown men were fixated on his feet as he chopped through the cones. One man held a sign saying he moved from New York because of Beckham.

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The love was tangible.

“I can definitely feel it,” Beckham said after signing autographs, posing for pictures with kids and spending time with his mom, who wore a No. 13 Browns tank top. “I’m just excited to be here and have the opportunity where I can just give love back. It’s sad, but this world is so full of hate and we love to look at the negatives and that’s the only thing that can get talked about. So I do love the love and I just want to be able to spread that through this community, through this team and build something special.”

Hype isn’t new in Browns Town. Five years ago, Northeast Ohio was engulfed in the debut of Johnny Manziel.

The difference between OBJ and JFF? Beckham needed about two minutes of 11-on-11 drills to remind his new fans why he’s a three-time Pro Bowler at 26 years old.

The first completion from quarterback Baker Mayfield was an outstretched, over-the-shoulder catch on a fade down the sideline. The second was even better.

On an out route to the same sideline, Beckham juggled the ball but managed to snare it and get his knees inbounds despite cornerback Terrance Mitchell having an arm in his chest.

“I’m blessed. God gifted me with some gifts and when you have a guy throwing it, if it’s put in the right spot, to me nothing feels like a hard catch,” said Beckham, who added he was upset with bobble and never surprised to make a great play. “The harder catches are the easiest ones to be honest with you. I’m just happy to be out there and playing football. This is the game that I love.”

Mayfield knows a good thing when he sees it.

“It is a security blanket being able to throw it in places that not a lot of receivers could go get it and he comes down with it with a guy draped all over him,” he said. “It is unique. It is good.”

Beckham wasn’t done, adding a 20-yard touchdown on a dart from Mayfield on an in route and a leaping catch in one-on-ones in front of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, with Jimmy wearing neon orange shoes that matched Beckham’s.

Beckham’s popularity reached the stratosphere after an acrobatic one-handed catch in prime time that has become his signature.

“I don’t think I understood how much of an impact it made in a good and bad way,” he said. “You’re supposed to catch the ball with two hands. Everyone’s trying to catch it with one hand. I hope I don’t take all the blame for that. It was just a polarizing moment and it will be a forever moment.”

He shouldn’t be defined by one play. He had 390 catches in five years with the Giants, including 288 over his first three, tied with best friend and Browns teammate Jarvis Landry for the most in NFL history to start a career.

Beckham’s favorite part of a catch has nothing to do with his hands.

“Kinda being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be and just doing your job,” he said. “So right now I can feel the wheels churning in my brain and making sure I’m lined up where I’m supposed to be, I’m running the right route, I know the adjustments, I know all of those things. And then I think as I get more comfortable it’ll be a lot more full speed, it’ll be a lot more less thinking and just more playing.”

Beckham gets fresh haircut to match “fresh start” with Browns

Beckham is still looking for a house in Northeast Ohio and taking suggestions but said he feels at peace in his new environment.

“I am very excited to be here,” he said. “I feel settled in my heart, in my mind, my body.”

And free to be himself, something coach Freddie Kitchens encourages.

“I’m not into conforming to anything. I’ve never conformed to anything,” Kitchens said. “We’ve got one rule, and that’s do what’s right.

“Odell, me personally, I know this is just my opinion, I think he’s a good dude. Whatever he does in how he wants to be himself, that’s him. I don’t want him to change that.”

Beckham called the love from fans “real” and “crazy” and said it will motivate him to do more for the fans and play better.

“He should feel the love from the fans because they showed it to him,” Kitchens said. “The thing that separates Cleveland from a lot of places is the passion that they bring to it, to the game, to the practice, on social media and all that kind of stuff. The passion in the Cleveland area for the fans who are all Browns fans is very unique and I think that was demonstrated today and will probably be demonstrated the rest of training camp. And hopefully we carry that momentum over into the real season.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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