BEREA — As Odell Beckham Jr. sat with three of his new Browns teammates behind a dais Monday, he spoke about legacies and greatness.
The superstar wide receiver couldn't help himself because he envisions bringing a championship to Cleveland the way his idol LeBron James did in 2016.
"I think this moment is going to be more iconic than we all realize right now," Beckham said during his introductory news conference, which coincided with the first day of the Browns' voluntary offseason workout program.
"That’s what we want the goal to be. We’ll look back in 10 years and be like, 'Man, I remember April 1, 2019, the start of something great.'"
Beckham admitted "it was definitely a shock" when New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman called March 12 to inform him he had been traded to the Browns. Beckham explained the move gave him a lot to process, but he thinks he has come to grips with the change.
He stressed he is thrilled about reuniting with receiver Jarvis Landry, his close friend and former Louisiana State University teammate. Landry, quarterback Baker Mayfield and defensive end Myles Garrett joined Beckham to address local media for the first time since the trade.
"As it all settled in, I’m very excited about this," Beckham said, "and I think that it’s going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life."
Beckham won't be with the Browns continually in the early stages of their training program, coach Freddie Kitchens said. Before the blockbuster trade rocked the NFL, Beckham thought his offseason program would start April 15, when the Giants will begin their program.
"He didn’t know he was going to be in Cleveland up until three weeks ago, so he’s got some things to tie up," Kitchens said. "But he thought it was important enough to be here today, so he was here for his teammates and for himself and for his coaches."
Kitchens commended Beckham for deciding on his own to show up.
"I didn't encourage anything," Kitchens said. "Odell knows what is at stake. He knows what he needs to be here for. The media is never going to form a line in the sand between me and a player or a player and his teammates. This is strictly voluntary."
Beckham said he doesn't know his entire offseason plan and mentioned he usually trains in Los Angeles.
"But I definitely want to be able to be here and create that bond, that relationship with the new teammates, coaches, everybody, just so you can kind of see who I am," he said.
Along those lines, Beckham said the perception that he's a me-first player is "just wrong." Mayfield chimed in with, "He's here today. I think that shows that [perception is wrong]."
So far, so good. Beckham and Kitchens hit it off when they met Monday. The two men hugged and said they love each other.
"It’s like a love story," Kitchens quipped.
Beckham and Landry have shared a fairy tale-type bond since they were high school students from Louisiana who met as 16-year-olds at a seven-on-seven tournament in Alabama. Their dreams of playing for the same college came true at LSU, where Beckham said they would sneak into the practice facility and perfect one-handed catches with each other, and they had long talked about finding themselves on the same NFL roster.
"This is everything I ever dreamed of and more," Beckham said. "I'm just really excited about the opportunity. I can't lie. I'm looking at it, I feel it, and I think this is the biggest blessing in my entire life, especially being able to be here for [Landry].
"We used to call each other every single day. I know that this life gets hard. We go through our ups and downs. It's like I felt I couldn't be there for him all the time, even if it's just by a phone call, and now I can really be there. I can be back in his life, and it's something I prayed for."
It's also something Landry lobbied for on Twitter a year ago.
"He made me who I am today," Beckham said. "He’s taken me to a level of this greatness. This legendary stuff that we talked about is because of him. So there’s no better place for me to be but here.
"I feel like there's no way God would have landed me here and not be here for a reason."
Good place to be
After learning of the trade, Beckham called his mom and Landry. And while Beckham worked through his emotions about being dealt, Landry reassured him.
"What I told O is just that the love and the appreciation [from] everybody that works in this building, from top to bottom, it’s something that made me feel so comfortable the way it feels like family here," said Landry, whom the Browns acquired last year in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. "And I told him that he would appreciate that. He would appreciate that he can come here and honestly just be himself and people would love him for that."
A mega-celebrity with more social-media followers than any other NFL player, Beckham said asking the Browns for a new contract is "not on my mind right now" after receiving a five-year, $90 million extension from the Giants in August.
He also emphasized he's not worried about how leaving New York for Cleveland could affect his marketing opportunities.
"I care about football. I care about winning," he said. "I didn’t step into this game to be famous. That’s just what fell into my lap. We talked about a legacy. We talked about gold jackets. That’s our conversations. It never was about the money. It never was about any of that. It’s about being a legend."
Speaking of legends, Beckham has talked to James about his big move to Northeast Ohio.
"I asked him if I could borrow the house [in Bath Township], but he said it’s too big for me to stay there by myself," Beckham said. "I was just trying to get my bearings straight and see what’s what. This is his home, so he gave me a little bit of advice.
"He was like, 'You’re going to love Cleveland.' I was like, 'I can’t wait.' And that’s like my idol. That’s the person I look up to the most, and that’s my guy. To see what he did to bring a championship here, I just want to be able to do that same thing."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.