One look at Dorial Green-Beckham will likely leave a nice crick in your neck. After all, Missouri's sophomore receiver stands a towering 6 feet 6 inches and has spent the past few years of his life just literally looking down at people.
But even with his monster size, Green-Beckham couldn't shake his nerves as a freshman. His size couldn't save him from the pressure he felt from all the hype that followed him from being the nation's No. 3 overall recruit in the 2012 class.
"I was nervous," Green-Beckham said.
His giant slayer came in the form of attention and pressure. Distractions clouded his mind during the first part of his freshman season. But after his mid-season suspension, something started to click. Green-Beckham's eyes opened and his mind cleared, leading him to becoming Mizzou's top receiver during the second half of the year.
"I had to pick it up because I had to have a bigger role for the team and try to help my team get victories," said Green-Beckhman, who caught 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns in Mizzou's final five games.
His maturity and work ethic spilled over into the spring, as he was the team's most consistent offensive player. The fire that made him so special seemed to be back, and now he's ready to take over this fall.
"Now that I have the first year under the belt, just the experience that I got last year is really got me feeling more comfortable and prepared for this year's season," Green-Beckham said.
As comfortable as Green-Beckham is, it certainly wasn't easy at the beginning. From the moment he stepped on campus, everyone in Columbia, Mo., knew him. Fans and classmates mobbed him in public and in between classes. Veteran players approached him at his first practice explaining how much the team needed to immediately see the player who earned No. 1 high school receiver honors.
Green-Beckham expected attention, but he never thought it would become such a distraction. He didn't know the limelight would be so bright.
"Coming out of high school, having all the hype and all the fame that I did, and having all eyes on me ... it was hard," Green-Beckham said.
What made things worse was that DGB wasn't catching onto things on the playing field. He really wasn't catching anything, as he recorded just seven receptions in his first five games. His only multi-catch game was the Tigers' opener when he caught three passes.
The game was too fast and neither his body nor his mind were adjusting.
Then his season really took a hit when he and four other freshmen were suspended in early October after being arrested on suspicion of possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana. DGB sat out the Vanderbilt game and didn't register any stats a week later against Alabama.
What was supposed to be a promising season was falling apart until he sought the advice of "Big Brothers" Jimmie Hunt and L'Damian Washington. They were blunt, telling him the only way for him to sniff at his potential was to leave the outside forces alone. He could only control what he was doing on the football field, and that meant he needed the playbook in his hand more. He needed time to learn, not just act.
"They are the ones who really helped me get focused and learn the plays a lot better," Green-Beckham said. "I took it in slowly and spent my extra time with those guys."
And by the end of the season, he was playing better than them. Now, it's all about DGB. And it should continue to be all about DGB as he moves outside his old high school position at the "X" receiver spot. At 6-6, 225 pounds, he's a physical mismatch wherever he lines up, but DGB is at home on the outside. He can dissect every inch of the routes and knows what defenders will give him in that spot.
"Lining up on that side, I know exactly what's coming and what's going to be ahead of me," he said. "I'm playing on that left side and I'm more comfortable about it.
"That really boosted my confidence."
What's also boosted his confidence is that he's more dangerous in traffic. DGB is fighting guys for passes and he's finally getting more comfortable with how he uses his body. DGB can sprint past anyone, but his bread and butter has become the jump ball, which has made one-on-ones cake and will be key to his success this fall.
When asked on the phone if he giggled or smiled when he lined up one-on-one with his teammates now, DGB paused and tried his best to not throw guys under the bus.
"I always have a smile on my face when I'm running around out there and playing with my teammates," he said.
He hopes to be smiling even more this fall.