There was a day a few weeks back when Jon Halapio leaned his scooter against the wall and pushed down the long sock on his right foot and leg, revealing a nasty scar. It might as well have been a magnet, as it instantly attracted Odell Beckham Jr.
The usually ebullient Giants wide receiver made a beeline for the injured offensive lineman and studied his right ankle; it was as if Beckham were a surgeon inspecting his handiwork. Beckham pointed at the scar, leaning in close enough to count the stitches.
“He gives me pointers and stuff, telling me to keep my head up, mentally first, make sure I’m right spiritually and mentally,’’ Halapio said.
This is the Odell Beckham Jr. who operates out of the spotlight that seeks him out.
The Giants this Thanksgiving were thankful their superstar returned from a fractured left ankle and regained his physical prowess. He has 69 receptions for 932 yards and five touchdowns, on pace to finish his fifth NFL season with 110 catches for 1,491 yards. Both would be career highs. After failing to reach the end zone in the first four games, Beckham has five touchdowns this season, four in his past four games.
Beckham’s teammates are thankful the most famous among them does not big-time anyone in the locker room. He does not have to take such an interest in the health and well-being of a fairly nondescript offensive lineman. Beckham, though, had to deal last year with an ankle injury almost identical to the one Halapio suffered in Week 2.
It was a cruel blow for Halapio, who won the starting center job and at 27 years old appeared poised to take off on a career launching pad. Those inside the Giants believe he was playing better than any of the offensive linemen when he went down in the third quarter against the Cowboys.
The same surgeon who performed Beckham’s surgery, Dr. Martin O’Malley, operated on Halapio. Soon enough, Beckham checked in.
“I always tell him I want to see how you are doing, because I went through the same thing and it sucked,’’ Beckham told The Post.
“I couldn’t walk for two months and I felt his pain. When I found out what injury he had, I was trying to give him any kind of drill that I used. Tell him when you’re going to feel certain movements and certain things, just trying to give him any tips that I can to help him get back as fast as possible.’’
Halapio appreciated the insight.
“The biggest advice he told me was to take my time,’’ Halapio said. “Make sure I don’t rush. There is no rush. I got a lot of time. Just stay mentally in tune with yourself. It’s easy to start to doubt yourself and doubt things around you, be negative. I’ve got a good support system. My wife is doing a good job of taking care of me.’’
Halapio should be ready to roll well in advance of training camp. He is set to become a free agent, and it is likely the Giants will want him back and give him a shot at regaining his job.
In his place, John Greco did not distinguish himself filling in at center. Free-agent pickup Spencer Pulley has stabilized the position the past four games, but is not likely to secure the starting spot on a long-term basis.
“I’m going to take my time, do what I can do so I can be right for next year, just like [Beckham] did,’’ Halapio said.
As a 317-pound lineman, Halapio has to return to form, but does not have to regain Beckham’s world-class athlete status.
“I don’t have to run a 4.3 or 4.2 like he runs,’’ Halapio said. “That’s why it took him that long, because he has to get back up to that speed, whereas me, I just got to get my strength back and agility things like that. He’s just been giving me pointers, trying to fire muscles, things like that, things that he struggled with.’’
Beckham admits to struggling as he navigated through doubt and near-depression while slogging through the expansive rehabilitation process.
“It was tough for me,’’ Beckham said. “Mentally, it was very hard. I wasn’t in a good place when this happened. But he seems to be in a better place than I was. I’m just trying to encourage him. He’s doing well.’’
And Halapio has someone to confide in as he heals.