Jarvis Landry wants to be the biggest star in the NFL.
But first, he needs to become the most popular player in his own state.
That reality sunk in during a recent media call promoting Landry’s sleek new designer backpack, which comes out later this month.
Who had the NFL’s best-selling jersey in Florida, Landry was asked toward the end of the interview.
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“Hopefully me,” Landry responded.
Actually, it’s Tom Brady.
“Oh no,” Landry said, his voice dropping. “You know what? That’s only for another year or two. We’re emerging as an organization; we’re going to put that to rest.”
Landry, more than any of the Dolphins, has the best chance to catch Brady in the near future.
Fresh off his second Pro Bowl appearance in as many seasons, Landry has eclipsed Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill as the Dolphins’ biggest name.
And he’s a marketer’s dream. Landry has panache. He has moxie.
What other Dolphins player could pull off a photo shoot in which he’s bare-chested and standing atop a Lamborghini with scantily clad models at his feet?
“He’s dope,” said David Ben-David, the founder of Sprayground, a New York-based bag company that’s about to release its second Landry custom backpack in as many years. The retail price? $80.
“He’s got tattoos, he’s got fashion,” Ben-David added. “He’s a killer fashion dude.”
Landry will celebrate the bag’s release on July 10 with a party at Simon’s Sportswear in Miami, giving fans who buy one a chance to hang out with him. It’s a fitting event for the outgoing Landry; he rarely turns down a chance to spend time with his people.
The secret to his appeal? It’s cliché but true: He keeps it real.
Landry is a free spirit who dresses the way he does, wears his hair the way he does and carries himself the way he does because it simply feels right.
“It just happens,” Landry said. “It’s just staying true to myself.”
But his popularity, of course, is rooted in his play. He’s one of the best receivers in football.
No player in NFL history has caught more passes in his first three seasons than Landry’s 288 — a record he shares with former LSU teammate, fellow Sprayground contributor and good friend Odell Beckham Jr.
Landry hasn’t even reached his second contract yet and he’s already ninth on the Dolphins’ all-time receptions list.
Coach Adam Gase last season called Landry the Dolphins’ best player on offense, and the rest of the league has noticed. He’s 42nd on the league’s latest top 100 players list, up from 98 the year before.
“Not enough,” Landry said of his ranking. “Not enough. Honestly, me personally, I play this game to be recognized as one of the best. For me, and I’m sure every player, they want to be No. 1. I’ve always approached this game that way and how I’ve worked that way. I wouldn’t settle for 42.”
Maybe now you’re starting to get an idea of why fans flock to Landry, whether it’s in line for autographs at training camp or in line at Publix.
They call Landry “Juice” because of the way he juices up an offense with big plays and even bigger energy.
The crowd at Hard Rock Stadium is seldom louder than when Landry, at just 206 pounds, runs over a defensive back.
“When he’s on the field, he’s a different person than when you meet him,” said Michael Ben-David, who works with his brother at Sprayground. “He’s like possessed. He takes over. He’s got more tenacity than anybody else. That’s what drove me to him.”
David Ben-David, who designed the bag, wanted it to reflect Landry’s one-of-a-kind persona. There’s a giant shark on the back, teeth bared with menace. The backpack also spells out Landry’s nickname, with the J in the shape of an orange, the U a gold chain, the I a Rolls-Royce Phantom (one of Landry’s favorite cars), the C a dolphin and the E a football.
While the company wouldn’t say how many bags have been produced, Landry’s limited run did sell out last year.
But what about those kids who can’t afford 80 bucks for a Juice Shark bag? Landry has a line of merchandise for them, too.
Over on JarvisLandry.com, they can buy a T-shirt with his name on it for as little as $24.99. Landry’s independent clothing line is not affiliated with the NFL, and he said all proceeds go to his foundation to help those in need in his native Louisiana.
Landry said his gear has sold well and he often sees people wearing it, both in person and on social media.
Still, the vast majority of his fans are locally based. Next up: expanding his reach throughout the country.
Tadd Schwartz, a Miami-based publicist and brand developer, thinks a broader appeal will only come with more production. Yes, Landry has had a ton of catches. But he only has 13 touchdowns in three years — 22 fewer than his friend Beckham.
“Elevating his brand to prime-time status will mean putting the ball in the end zone more frequently,” Schwartz said. “Look at the top receivers in the game today — Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown — and they’re all household names, scoring twice as many touchdowns as Jarvis year after year. Catches move the ball down the field, but big scoring plays and winning are the best ways to build a personal brand in today’s highlight-obsessed NFL.”
Landry surely knows this. He’s in a contract year, and touchdowns could also be the difference between good money and elite money.
“I wish there was a true blueprint, then everybody would follow it,” Landry said of truly going national. “I’ve been blessed with the platform that I have. I’m staying true to myself. And let my work speak for itself.”