‘Right now, it’s still a dream’

In the stillness of the Renaissance Hotel suite, the irony wasn’t lost on Jarvis Landry.

On the flat screen mounted to the wall, a tacky commercial played whose premise hit, potentially, too close to home. A draft pick was sliding, the camera zoomed in on the actor’s face as the reality of being passed over dawned on him until eventually the script called for a Swedish kicker to be taken in front of him.

Landry, reclining on a couch, didn’t seethe. The LSU receiver’s jaw didn’t clinch. Nor did he fiddle with a phone.

Instead, the man who the Tigers leaned on to snag every catch over the middle turned to his best friend in Odell Beckham for a moment.

Then he laughed.

“It was kind of awkward,” Landry said. “But it was in the plan and knowing what was for me begnning, and I wasn’t worried about it. I was just letting it be.”

Thirty minutes later, the junior’s wait ended after six receivers names were called and the Miami Dolphins rang, snapping up the Convent native as the second round of the NFL draft wound down Friday and with the No. 63 pick overall, setting off delirium among the 30 friends and family packed inside the Tibaldier Room.

“Everything I’ve done to this point and after this point was never for me,” Landry said. “It was for the people behind the camera.”

Really, though, they’d known for 10 minutes. Landry no longer hung in limbo. The hint was easy to spot. Landry slowly walking down the hall only to have a pair of mammoth hands fall on his shoulders. Gerard Landry, his big brother and a standout pass catcher at Southern, shook his sibling, the one who ran the Mississippi River levee near their home and sweated through workouts with him against college corner backs.

Among the first questions posed to Jarvis Landry in a flurry of phone calls: What do they call you?

“They call me Juice,” Landry said.

Faint hints were dropped during the afternoon.

Driving to Baton Rouge from New Orleans, Beckham fielded a phone call from a Dolphins wide receiver coach Jeff Nixon asking for his best friend’s cell number. “You all better take him,” Beckham told the coach. Before he the draft began, an assistant general manager with the Dolphins checked in with Landry, too.

Still, it didn’t really register the Dolphins might tab him to joining quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver Mike Wallace in their passing attack.

“Miami was one of the teams I didn’t have much contact with,” Landry said. “But I think they believed in my ability and that I could bring something different to that locker room and to the field.”

Now, Landry intends to make the other 31 franchises — the ones who honed in on a 4.77-second, 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine — regret ignoring three years of game tape where his 12-inch hands snagged every throw in his vicinity en route 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns on 77 catches this season.

“You put on the film, how many times you see me get caught from behind?” Landry said. “For me, I had to stop letting the speed question get to me, because I knew my game and knew what it consisted of. It’s great hands, football IQ and clutch play-making ability.”

On Thursday, though, optimism filled the room when Landry, attired in maroon slim-cut chinos, a floral print shirt and a navy wool sport coat, strode into the room at 7:30 p.m. and pecked all his female friends and family on the cheek. Ahead of the draft, the thinking in Landry’s camp was the receiver had a chance to be drafted in the first round if a slew of receivers were taken. The theory was propped up by Clemson’s Sammy Watkins going off the board fourth overall to Buffalo.

Next went Mike Evans, No. 7 to Tampa Bay. And then a bittersweet instant when Beckham Jr. — Landry’s roomate and defacto brother — saw his wait end in a Radio City Music Hall green room when the Giants tabbed him with the 12th overall pick.

Bouncing his niece on his knee, Landry clasped his hands together and nodded.

“It was great to see all the hard work he’s put in pay off,” Landry said. “To see the way he’s grown and matured into a man, it says a lot about his character and the New York Giants got a hell of a football player.”

Landry, projected as a second- or third-round pick, needed another 24 hours to learn his ultimate destination.

Slots No. 24 to No. 32 heralded potential suitors. Carolina, which worked out Landry and showed heavy interest, needed a receiver at No. 28, and Seattle — holder of the No. 32 selection — also seemed keen on taking him. Yet the Panthers were also mulling a tackle, or a bigger wide receiver more adept at snaring back-shoulder throws in the red zone.

At 10:20 p.m. Thursday, Carolina’s intentions stung. They snagged Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin — a 6-foot-5-inch receiver who made the game-winning catch in the BCS national title game. Gerard Landry simply tilted his head back, closed his eyes and sighed. Jarvis Landry, still quiet, chewed on his thumbnail, stood up and left.

“It was hard to watch,” Gerard Landry said. “I went up to his (hotel) room and tried to console him. I went through the same process in 2008, and my name didn’t get called. ‘Your name is going to get called. It’s just a matter of what team.’ ”

And when Seattle swapped its pick with Minnesota, falling back to the second round, it was official.

“It’s crazy to me how much a 40 can mean to somebody when you have one of the best football players in the draft and to get passed on,” Beckham said. “It blows my mind.”

Instead, the sprint ripped off on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium in February still nipped at Landry, even if a 4.51-second time at LSU’s pro day in April tried to blot it out. A tight hamstring, a minor malady, left him watching lower-rated prospects go in front of him.

“He’s going to make them regret that,” Gerard Landry said. “All those receivers that went ahead of him, he’s going to be one of the top two.”

At 6 o’clock Friday morning, Jarvis Landry was already working out, trying to ease the tension, but the clandestine activities in NFL war rooms still left him helpless. He barely lasted 45 minutes watching the second round with supporters. After USC wide receiver Marqise Lee went to Jacksonville at No. 39, he popped up and walked down the hall to the dimly lit suite.

For the next two hours, he and agent Demarious Bilbo watched a run on receivers.

Off the board went Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews to Philadelphia at No. 42. Next came Colorado’s Paul Richardson to Seattle three picks later, a choice that stung twice, considering the Seahawks interest and ESPN Todd McShay’s assessment: “This guy makes spectacular catches, but he also struggles with drops.”

By then, Beckham, who caught a flight back from New York, strode in with a new royal blue Giants cap perched atop his head. Leaning forward and resting his arms on the couch, he took in the rundown from Landry of pass catchers taken.

“Seattle took Paul Richardson,” Jarvis Landry asked.

“Who?” Beckham said.

“He’s not any bigger than you were in high school,” Jarvis Landry answered.

Landry curled his legs on the couch and quietly sipped bottle water, watching his stock dip. Indiana’s Cody Latimer went at No. 56 to Denver, and Penn State’s Allen Robinson to Jacksonville five spots later. Along the way, LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson was snapped up by the Bears. Beckham and Landry cracked up again when Cincinnati tabbed Jeremy Hill at No. 55.

“I knew it,” Beckham said.

And then there was the commercial, inserting an unplanned 30 seconds of humor. Instead of focusing on the potential financial hit — the gap between the No. 28 and No. 63 picks contracts last year was $4.5 million — Landry didn’t fret. A text popped up on his phone from Missouri wide receiver and Shreveport native L’Damian Washington: “God don’t make mistakes,” it read.

“That gave me peace,” Landry said.

Forty minutes later, those names crawling across the bottom of the screen didn’t matter. Landry’s own appeared. Now, there’s flights to be arranged. An apartment to be found. There’s another party on the docket next weekend in St. James Parish. 
“Then,” Landry said. “It’s time to work.”

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