The Super Bowl is one of the most watched television events of the calendar year for a multitude of reasons. The most obvious is the football aspect of it. It's a meeting of what is supposed to be the two best teams in the world, or at least two of the best. Generally this leads to a very exciting final 60 minutes of football for the foreseeable future. But there is also an entertainment factor beyond the whistles of the Super Bowl. There's the halftime performance, all the prop bets, the pre-game and post-game shenanigans. And then, of course, there's the commercials.
Normally the commercials are the times when you get up off the couch and stretch your legs. You go to the bathroom, grab a few extra snacks, refill your drink. Usually that's the time to do it because you won't miss any of the action. But during the Super Bowl the commercials are their own action. At more than $2 million per 30 second ad, companies have to put their full brain power into getting you to remember their product/brand, and because of that, we've seen some amazing commercials over the years.
One of my favorites came from the 2016 Super Bowl, where Buick came up with a really creative idea to get us to remember their product by playing off Odell Beckham Jr.'s famous one-handed catch.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I've gone to say the phrase "he/she Odell'd it" after seeing that commercial. Sometimes it's super random, too. I might be watching another sport where a player makes a crazy catch with one hand that immediately brings that catchphrase to mind. Other times it could just be me throwing a random object to my roommate that he catches in a crazy way.
When it comes to football, it takes a lot for me to link a player to OBJ. But this past October, on a Saturday afternoon, there was a play that Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden made that when I saw it, the first thing that came to mind mind was...
"He Odell'd it."
So let me get this straight. There's a 6-foot-4, 220 pound wide receiver with back-to-back 1,000 yards seasons, is No. 2 in the nation in receiving yards, Top 20 in total catches, Top 50 yards-per-catch, and he plays at Liberty? Okay, I'm going to need you to back up here and take me back to the beginning.
Before AGG was dominating the Big South conference, before he was even on a football field, young Antonio found enjoyment in activities beyond sports.
“I never really was a sports person,” Gandy-Golden said to Logan Smith of Liberty Champion. “I was just a little weird kid going outside climbing trees and running around.”
Until he was eight years old, Gandy-Golden lived in the inner city in Chicago with his mother. At a young age, Gandy-Golden took an interest in gymnastics -- tumbling, to be exact.
“My balance is definitely better because of the tumbling,” Gandy-Golden said to Adam Hillman of the The Daily Orange. “I’ve always been strong for my size but I have a better idea of how to jump and use my body.”
That certainly translated to the football field, as AGG became a three-year starter at Paulding County High School. He finished his high school career with six school records with over 2,500 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns. But those stats didn't turn to stars. As just a 2-star recruit, Gandy-Golden's options for college ball were limited. He eventually landed on Liberty as his school of choice, and from that moment on, he hasn't looked back.
Gandy-Golden is just starting to get into the spotlight, but the more he does, the brighter his shine becomes.
Play No. 1: The Natural
I watched the clip above of AGG and the only thought that came to my mind right off the bat was "EXCUSE ME!?"
Gandy-Golden isn't the fastest guy. You probably could have guessed that in his scouting report after seeing his size and him not being at Alabama or Clemson. But he still moves really well for a big man. You can see how natural it is for him to control his body in the air, and that allows his mind to make impossible-looking play possible for him.
AGG is an easy watch. There are a ton of catches to enjoy, and they come in a variety of different ways. He's going to have a talent adjustment to make at the next level, but I love the way he approaches plays. His mind is open and willing to go up and get a pass in sometimes unconventional or high difficulty ways. Sometimes guys can be robotic with their approach. That's not AGG at all, and I like that about him.
Play No. 2: Big Man Feet
Gandy-Golden is at the top of your screen in the play above, and though he didn't get the ball on this play, it stood out to me just as much as some of his catches did.
Big men having quick feet is something that suckers me into a prospect real quick. Again, AGG isn't going to be a burner down the field, but in the art of separation, especially for a guy with his size and catch radius, being able to separate off press and close coverage plays to a heavy advantage when it comes to throws at the sideline.
Play No. 3: Big Red Zone Guy
The area where you'd hope to see dominance from a man of AGG's type is in the red zone, particularly high in the air. Well, let me tell you, if this is what you came for, you're going to leave a happy viewer.
Simply put this kid can go up and get it. He has more than a handful of sky high catches where he's timing his jump perfectly with fully extended arms over defenders for first downs or scores. When it comes to the money areas, this guy is a money player.
Play No. 4: No Yard Left Un-Gained
Building off Gandy-Golden being a natural in the air, he seems to be a natural as a ball carrier, too. What he lacks in speed and acceleration he makes up for in a determined running style. There are so many receivers out there who would've taken the out multiple times in that play. Some would have just sort of given themselves up and run right into the defender after the catch. Others would have gone out of bounds after the first missed tackle. Most would have hit the turf after that last guy initially latched on. But Gandy-Golden is a guy who ignored all those easy outs, focusing only on the yards he could gain -- and he nearly scored.
That's the kind of guy you're getting when you get him the ball. Not a burner, but a workhorse, in a sense. Yards after the catch can come in many ways.
Play No. 5: He Odell'd It
This article all comes full circle with this catch. This is the one I was talking about that made me think "he Odell'd it," because dammit, he did.
Antonio Gandy-Golden is an easy guy to root for. Where most might see his backstory and think he was just late to football, and that might hold AGG back, what they might not know is that the gymnastic roots help bring to life what you see on tape. Nowadays Gandy-Golden is no stranger to the game, and he's very quickly becoming no stranger to the NFL draft community.
When it comes to the incredible difference makers in the wide receiver class for the 2020 NFL Draft, don't forget about Gandy-Golden as a potential starting wide receiver at the next level.