Miami Dolphins

Emerging Miami Dolphins star Jarvis Landry stretches field and his money

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who grew up poor, stressed the importance of savings to Nova High School students on Tuesday.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who grew up poor, stressed the importance of savings to Nova High School students on Tuesday. Courtesy of Miami Dolphins

“Who here knows how long the punt return was Sunday?”

Jarvis Landry was the guest lecturer at Nova High School in Davie on Tuesday morning, and that was the last question of his pop quiz.

Fifty, responded one teen.

Seventy, said another.

Finally, somebody tipped off a young lady in the front row.

“Sixty-nine yards,” she yelled out, earning a T-shirt for her correct answer.

Landry was at Nova, just a long Ryan Tannehill pass from the team’s headquarters, talking up financial literary, part of a program with BankUnited.

But, in an indirect way, he was also reaching a new generation of Dolphins fans who were in diapers the last time the local team won a playoff game.

And the team has no better ambassador. Landry’s young. He’s charismatic.

And he’s very good at his job.

Landry’s punt return for a touchdown — which, yes, went for 69 yards — saved the Dolphins in an otherwise uninspiring opener against the Redskins Sunday.

The play has been ubiquitous ever since -- on social media, local TV and even on the national TV, which has finally discovered that there was more to LSU’s 2014 draft class than Landry’s close friend Odell Beckham Jr.

The Dolphins’ marketing department, of course, was the first one on the bandwagon. He’s one of a half dozen or so faces around which the team builds its sales pitch; others include Ryan Tannehill, Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.

Not bad for a guy who just two years ago was sending home his college meal stipend to help support his mother Dietra, a single mom in Convent, Louisiana, a tiny town located an hour south from the LSU campus where he starred for three seasons.

Landry’s adolescent life was a struggle: dad wasn’t around, so mom worked two jobs to simply keep the lights on. For a while, he was sent to live with a family friend because he needed a father-figure in his life.

So when it comes to the importance of saving and managing money, Landry speaks from experience. He never wants his children or his children’s children to go through what he did.

“As a kid, it’s hard to understand what’s really happening, because you don’t really know,” Landry said. “As I grew up, I understood what sacrifice, work ethic, and things like that means because of what my mom displayed when I was a kid. I didn’t understand that. Now when I see it, it’s courageous. Again, it’s one of the reasons I love her today.”

And now that Landry has money, he wants to make sure he keeps as much of it as possible. He used a little of his salary bonus — a sum of just more than $800,000 — to help his mom and brother get their financial affairs in order and to buy a car. The rest, he saved.

And his weekly paycheck? A good chunk of that goes into the bank too. Kaleb Thornhill, the Dolphins’ director of player engagement, suggests that players save at least half of their salary. Landry took that advice to heart.

“It’s something that affects everyone,” Landry said. “I think, for me, I wish I had someone come speak to me as a kid to kind of get a jump-start on it as a youth.

“You always hear the stories, coming out of college, all the guys that go broke,” he added. “It’s definitely was in my mind. Then actually seeing money and how a lifestyle can drain your pockets, again, Kaleb, teaching us, it’s definitely something we need to aware of.”

Like all young players, Landry has one eye on his second contract. The deal he signed as a rookie changed his life; the lucrative next contract could set him for life.

If he keeps making plays like he did Sunday, it’s only a matter of time.

The Dolphins want to do everything they can to protect Landry on the field; as their No. 1 receiver, they gamble every time they send him out to return a punt or kickoff.

LaMike James had a chance to win the job away, but never seized it; the team cut James Monday. Perhaps Raheem Mostert, the rookie free agent signed by the teamTuesday, will be better.

But it’s not like Landry is lobbying for a lighter workload. In fact, the opposite is true.

“That’s why I practice as hard as I practice; stay after, condition,” Landry said. “To make sure, big play or not big play, how many reps on the field, I’m still 100 percent.”

When asked if he wants to be the team’s full-time punt returner:

“I don’t mind. Again, it’s another opportunity to get the ball in my hands. If not, it’s something I can live with, knowing that I’m here to play receiver. I just happen to be good with the ball in my hands as punt returner.”

He’s equally good in front of a group. While not every student in Landry’s class arrived at school as a die-hard Dolphins fan, they couldn’t help but be a fan of Landry when they left.

Money, growing fame and his mother in South Florida. He’s living the dream, right?

“This is the beginning of the dream,” he responded.

The teacher knows all the right answers.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

Related stories from Miami Herald