Jarvis Landry makes no apologies for his actions.
“It’s who I’ve always been,” he says.
Landry’s competitive fire was the subject. You might say that to watch any of his 225 career receptions is to see that fire on display. And you’d be right — to a point.
Turns out that fire burns brighter than perhaps any of us thought.
There’s an indoor basketball court where Landry lives, and to step on his turf is to get an idea what defensive backs go through when trying to tackle him after a catch. At least they have pads, officials and rules. On this court, there are no pads, no rules (other than his) and no mercy.
Even when the opponent is his younger cousin.
“It’s like the Detroit Pistons against the Chicago Bulls in the ‘80s,” says Gerard Landry, Jarvis’ older brother. “They go against each other, I’m like, ‘I do not want to have to call 911 from one y’all getting hurt from hacking each other.’ ”
Exaggerating? Maybe not.
“Not 911,” Jarvis says. “But a couple of family fights almost break out every time.”
Jarvis smiles, then continues to incriminate himself in ways that would make the Pistons’ Bad Boys proud.
Landry didn’t get where he is by playing nice. He’s second in the AFC in receptions (31) and yards (375) to Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. He had 110 catches last season but is on pace for 124 and 1,500 yards, both of which would be Dolphins records.
Two years in the league had him pegged as a slot receiver and a possession guy, which is one more thing that drives him. Does he want to lead the league in receiving, which would bolster his desire to be known as a complete receiver?
“Of course,” he says. “I want to lead the league in every category — tackles, if I can.”
His brother does not doubt this. We know Jarvis only from the two-plus years he has been a Dolphin. Gerard has known Jarvis his whole life. But the sibling rivalry you might expect never materialized.
“It was never a time that me and my brother really played against each other,” Gerard says.
“Every time we were at the park and we were playing, no matter if it was basketball, football or whatever, I’m picking my brother first.”
Here’s what’s unusual about that: “I’m 7 years older,” Gerard said.
Jarvis’ reaction: “Had to. Had to. But I always wanted to play against him, secretly, because I feel like that was my standard. He was my standard because I looked up to him so much.”
Gerard saw that drive in his brother as a high school player in Louisiana, where he wasn’t labeled a five-star recruit until the end of his senior year. He saw it when Jarvis played for LSU, sometimes breaking into the training facility in the middle of the night to sneak in extra workouts. Ten receivers drafted ahead of him? Ninety-seven players ranked ahead of him in this year’s NFL Top 100 list? There’s a reason Landry has a photo in his locker with the number 97 inscribed.
“I fail to believe that 97 players are better than me,” he says.
When Landry arrived in Miami, he had tunnel vision, not television. He didn’t have cable. He at least has that now, even though Gerard says Jarvis’ singular focus hasn’t waned.
“What I respect my brother for is the simple fact that you see players win games, they want to go out to the clubs, do this and that,” Gerard says. “Jarvis has been in Miami — it’s the third season — he’s probably went out twice. After the game, he’s coming home, he’s watching SportsCenter or he’s talking about, ‘Man, I could have done this on this play and that play.’ That just goes to show you how much he loves the game.
“That just shows that maturity level: ‘That they (the clubs) are going to always be there. But this, my career, one day is going to come to an end. But right now, I’m treating every day like it’s going to come to an end because I don’t want it to come to an end.’ ”
Landry considers records, stats and respect a means to an end. For all his individual success, he has not enjoyed winning on the NFL level, and to see him after a loss is to see a player staring into space for minutes on end, still in uniform, while teammates around him have showered and are heading home.
“I want to be able to have Ws to go along with those accolades or whatever,” he says.
On occasion, his pursuit of those wins has gone too far. Flags and a fine for verbally abusing an official were the result. Trying to put the brakes on losing earlier this season, Landry said it was time for the Dolphins to stop being an “almost” team. Being competitive is one thing. Being a winner is another.
Landry found it interesting that his “almost” comment had the traction it did.
“Honestly, I think it’s something that kind of goes without saying,” he says.
Landry won’t even turn 24 until November, meaning there should be plenty of NFL Sundays ahead. But already, Gerard knows where his brother has set the bar.
“He’s trying to wear that jacket one day,” Gerard says. “That’s the finish line.”
The finish line is in Canton, Ohio.
The jacket, as you probably guessed, is gold.
Hal Habib | palmbeachpost.com | October 5, 2016