NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was born to play for the LSU Tigers. He attended the same high school Peyton and Eli Manning made famous in New Orleans and grew into a four-star recruit before choosing the university of his dreams.
OBJ didn't have Joe Burrow throwing to him, but he still managed to become one of the top wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft class behind Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Donning the No. 3 purple and gold jersey, the one-handed catch magician totaled more than 2,300 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, including a stellar junior season in which he amassed 1,152 receiving yards. Oh, and this incredible 109-yard kick return touchdown.
The NFL star has gone on to become a three-time Pro Bowl player for the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams, but his career may not have blossomed without his parents. LSU fans might remember that Odell Beckham Sr. also played football at Louisiana State University, and he allegedly roomed with none other than Shaquille O'Neal.
However, OBJ's mom was the real star of the family who gave him his athletic genes. In fact, she might have been faster than her son back in the day.
Odell Beckham Jr.'s Mom Heather Van Norman
Heather Van Norman was born in Windom, Minnesota, to adoptive parents Don Van Norman and Millie Van Norman
Throughout middle school and high school up north, she discovered she was a pretty fast runner. By the time Van Norman graduated high school, she owned a 147-race winning streak. The Star Tribune described her as a "one-person team" for Windom en route to winning back-to-back state titles in 1987 and 1988.
She committed to stay home and run for the University of Minnesota but realized the SEC had her name written on it. She transferred to LSU and actually gave birth to Odell Beckham Jr. while she was still in school. OBJ wasn't just born to play for LSU, he was born and raised at LSU.
She Was an NCAA Champion Sprinter at LSU
— LSU Track & Field (@LSUTrackField) April 19, 2017
Van Norman didn't just run track at LSU, she smoked her competition.
According to her Nicholls State head coaching bio, she was a sprinter from 1989-95 and became a six-time All-American in her college career. She won three consecutive NCAA outdoor titles from 1991-93, two NCAA indoor national titles (1991 and 1993) and won both indoor and outdoor SEC titles in 1993 and 1995.
As a member of LSU's relay teams, Van Norman became one of the more impressive athletes in the program's history. That's saying something considering the Lady Tigers own countless indoor and outdoor national championships and produced Olympic athletes like Lolo Jones.
Van Norman planned on going for gold but became pregnant with Odell while training for the Olympic trials in 1992. According to LSU track and field coach Pat Henry, via Heavy.com, Van Norman was back on the track soon after giving birth.
"If you're a great athlete, you need support in any type of situation that takes you out of an athletic environment.
That first support for Heather came from her mother, and she needed that.
Heather was a great athlete, and a good young lady. We allowed nature to be what nature is, and when it was over she came back and ran. It was the right thing to do," Henry said.
As you can tell from this 1993 race, Van Norman could FLY:
Van Norman went on to coach in the same field. She began her career as an assistant at Rice University and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. She became the head coach of Tulane University's program in 2002. In 2012, she was named head coach of Nicholls State University's men's and women's track and field teams but resigned in 2017.
That likely gave her more time to watch her son's NFL games. At a Browns game in 2019, Van Norman posted to social media a photo of her in a Cleveland jersey with Beckham Jr.'s girlfriend, Lauren Woods.
OBJ has a ton of respect and love for his mother. The pro football player surprised her with a new Mercedes ahead of the Super Bowl in 2019. Maybe that was his way of saying thanks for giving him those athletic genes.
Heather Married an Olympic Gold Medalist
Van Norman and Beckham Sr. aren't still together, but she did marry quite the accomplished athlete.
When she was working at Georgia tech in the 1990s, she met Derek Mills, a member the United States gold medal 400 relay team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Mills at one point served as an assistant coach at Tulane. The two have a daughter together, Jasmyne, who currently attends Arizona State University.
Judging from Van Norman's Instagram account, she's quite proud of her kids. All I can say is that is one big athletic family.
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