Odell Beckham Jr. has only been bowling for a year or so, but you'd never know it if you saw his first roll Tuesday.
The Browns' superstar receiver stepped up to a rack of bowling balls at AMF Brookgate Lanes, located his custom ball among an assortment of standard selections and let it fly off his right hand, spinning rapidly while hurtling down the well-oiled lane 46. The purple, green, blue and gold-marbled ball — which definitely would have matched his Mardi Gras-themed pregame attire in the Browns' Week 2 win over the Jets — swirled as it curved back toward the front pins before sending them in 10 different directions.
Beckham hosted select Canton City School District students at the bowling alley Tuesday in Brook Park for a bowling party to reward the students for exemplary attendance as part of the Browns' Get 2 School, Stay in the Game! initiative. For Beckham, bowling was the perfect choice, marrying two of his passions: bowling, and interacting and inspiring kids.
"Bowling is probably one of my favorite activities, especially coming to Cleveland, it was something that I was already picking up on," Beckham said. "There's a bunch of lanes and stuff around and secondly, kids are a big part of my life. I love kids and I love bowling. I thought, why not put the two together?"
Beckham went from lane to lane, interacting with students and taking countless selfies for nearly an hour before he settled into lane 46 with three lucky students. Others from nearby lanes came over to continue the selfies and signatures, and some even chatted up Beckham, including a high school freshman who Beckham said reminded him a lot of himself.
In between, Beckham rolled more strikes and handed out some pointers to his lane mates, who were more than happy to listen and interact with the two-time All-Pro. He didn't bowl a perfect game, but he's working his way there whenever he gets a chance to bowl, telling ClevelandBrowns.com he broke 250 in a recent game.
Beckham enjoys the solitude of the game, saying he finds peace in bowling, and embraces the challenge of staying focused when his attention span directs him elsewhere. He also found joy in the opportunity it provided for responsible, hard-working students to enjoy a few hours of fun instead of school.
As part of Odell's support for the Get 2 School initiative, he hosted a bowling event for a select group of Canton students to celebrate their commitment to attendance and academic achievement.
"I think kids should be rewarded for their hard work and efforts in school, and just to kind of give them a day to just relax and bowl and eat some pizza and do things we all did as a kid," Beckham said. "I thought it would be pretty cool. For me, personally, I got a chance to bowl and got to be around some kids and get inspiration because I get my inspiration from them. These are the people who I do it for, along with my family, is to inspire somebody else coming up. I don't really do it for the appeasement of grown men and other people. It's just not my thing. I really do it all for the kids. I just thought putting it all together would be nice."
The message of the day, of course, stressed the importance of satisfactory school attendance for students, especially those considered to be at-risk.
"My pops would always say 'no A, no play,'" Beckham recalled. "If you're not getting the grades, we're not going to let you be out here. My mom was the same way as well. … She always stressed to me about just excellence, excellence in everything that I do, whether it was school, sports, but most importantly she always stressed to me that I wouldn't be here if I wasn't able to get the schoolwork done. I'm very thankful for that push from her and my pops as well."
The Browns, Beckham and CCSD collaborated to create the event and an attendance "competition" to continue to inspire students to come to school every day.
The students at Tuesday's bowling party achieved in the competition and were rewarded with a couple hours of fun with a superstar football player who's much more than just that.
"I can always relate to them. I'm a big kid at heart," Beckham said. "I love having fun and just playing and kind of living life carefree. Not to say that I can do that anymore, but there's still always that part of me that can relate to them so easily. I could sit here and be in here for hours just talking to them."