METAIRIE, La. — When New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry committed to LSU in 2010, he wasn’t exactly following a long list of modern pass-catchers who thrived at the next level.
That didn’t stop him from signing on immediately.
“I don’t even think about it,” Landry said.
He added: “I didn’t look at it as ‘Receiver U.’ I looked at it as, if you play there, you have a chance to go to the NFL, play against some of the best talent in the NCAA. … That was really my mindset.”
Landry not only cashed in on the opportunity, but it could be argued he and Odell Beckham Jr. ushered in the modern era of star LSU receivers in the NFL.
Now players like Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson and Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase are building a new legacy.
And not to mention all four receivers are from Louisiana.
“I wouldn’t say carrying on, I would say we’re starting off,” Chase told ESPN. “I say we are the start of a new legacy, and it started with Odell and Jarvis. We’re just starting it off as us four, and we’re just building the process on out.”
LSU produced a fair share of NFL receivers this century. Josh Reed, Michael Clayton, Dwayne Bowe, Devery Henderson and Brandon LaFell all played at least eight or more seasons in the NFL and carved out nice careers.
But they never got the accolades the current crop of receivers has already accumulated. The 11 Pro Bowls between Landry, Beckham, Jefferson and Chase more than double the total of all the receivers LSU has put in the league.
What used to be a rarity in the NFL now feels like the norm.
“They got the cup running over,” Landry said.
The process might have started with Beckham’s famous one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys as a New York Giants rookie in 2014. The catch catapulted him into superstar status and was one of the highlights of a season where he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
It was also a culmination of the hundreds of similar catches he and Landry made on LSU’s practice fields. Beckham and Landry could not only make the tough catches, but in 2013, they also became the first pair of LSU receivers to top 1,000 yards in the same season.
Years later, Jefferson and Chase would do the same thing, one-upping each other with fantastic catches just like their predecessors. But it took Chase a while to decide if he wanted to actually go to LSU.
“I think that was like my sophomore year or junior year [of high school] when I started to look at OBJ and Jarvis at LSU and realize how good they were,” Chase said. “It took me some time to really piggyback on how good they were, but I really didn’t want to go to LSU from the jump. It happened real last-minute for me when I picked my decision.”
Jefferson and Chase eventually broke Beckham and Landry’s records, with both eclipsing 1,500 receiving yards during the 2019 national championship season.
“When Jarvis and Odell were there, they competed with each other to try to outdo one another … and I think that’s how me and Ja’Marr was,” Jefferson told ESPN. “Just being with each other, competing with each other every single day in practice, it kind of made us try to be better than one another and definitely it shows coming into the league and performing the way we did.”
Jefferson currently leads the NFL with 547 receiving yards — with 147 of those yards coming in a win against the Saints in London during Week 4.
Chase was the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year, but this season (343 yards and two touchdowns) he hasn’t quite put up the same numbers he did through five games last season (456 yards and five touchdowns). He’ll still be getting a warm welcome from the local crowd when the Saints (2-3) host the Bengals (2-3) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox), though.
It’ll be Chase’s first game back in the Caesar’s Superdome since he caught nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns from then quarterback Joe Burrow — who is now the starter for the Bengals — in LSU’s win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2020.
He’ll also be drawing a lot of attention from the Saints defense, which could potentially be shorthanded with cornerback Marshon Lattimore nursing an abdomen injury.
“I think Ja’Marr Chase is one of the better receivers in our league,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s exceptional in terms of run after catch.”
When asked to pinpoint the reason for the lack of professional success, Landry pointed to an offense mostly built around the run.
“[Former LSU passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach] Joe Brady comes along with Joe Burrow, and they throw the ball way [more than we did] and that’s when I think it became more enticing to be like ‘Oh, they throw the ball over there,’” Landry said.
Said former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, now with the Vikings: “You saw when you got Joe in there, now they have turned into Receiver U. It’s all about the quarterback and the playcaller.”
It was more a product of the situation than the lack of athletes, Peterson said.
“They always had receivers there. … I always thought we had quarterbacks that could throw the ball,” Peterson told ESPN. “So I don’t know if it was the offensive coordinator, playcaller, the trust factor. I couldn’t tell you what it was. But we always had great athletes around the board. It’s just a matter of time of getting the right quarterback to get those guys the ball.”
Peterson, who returned kicks and played both running back and defensive back in high school, lamented never getting offensive snaps in college.
“[Former LSU coach] Les Miles flirted with it a little bit. Still wish I had the opportunity to get a couple of offensive snaps, but he waited until my junior year to at least give me a punt return snap,” Peterson said. “And the rest was history after that. But I begged him, since my freshman year, but in his defense, we did have Trindon Holliday, one of the fastest guys in college football history. So I guess I had to wait my turn.”
With the recent success of LSU’s wideouts, maybe things would be different if Peterson played at LSU today.
“I think, for sure, I would probably be on the offensive side of the ball, especially with what I was able to do in high school,” Peterson said.
NFL Nation reporters Ben Baby and Kevin Seifert contributed to this story.