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JuJu Smith-Schuster Is Here to Make Football Fun

The youngest player in the NFL dominated on the field and the internet

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Remember Odell Beckham Jr.?

Of course you don’t. He was replaced in every sports-watching American’s consciousness on Sunday night by JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers rookie receiver out of USC who is the future of Pittsburgh, the NFL, and maybe North American sports.

Smith-Schuster, the youngest player in the league, finished Sunday’s 20-15 victory over the Detroit Lions with seven catches on 10 targets for 193 yards and a touchdown. He started the game doing rookie grunt work, serving as the bench in Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown celebration.

Then, late in the third quarter with the Steelers backed up on their own 3-yard line, he caught a pass over the middle from Ben Roethlisberger and accelerated into the end zone for a 97-yard touchdown.

The 20-year-old now has the most touchdowns in NFL history before turning 21 (four), and he also set the record for youngest player in league history to dominate social media for an entire week.

Like many mythical heroes, JuJu’s story begins with betrayal. Just one week before Smith-Schuster’s breakout game, Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant, upset with his playing time, said on Instagram that “juju is no where near better than me fool...give me what I want and y’all can have juju and who ever else.”

(That looks as good in retrospect as Clayton Kershaw standing on the mound the night before his start in Game 5.)

Smith-Schuster took the high road. He had other things to worry about—mainly locating his bike, which had gone missing. Rather than dip into his $1.2 million signing bonus (who says millennials don’t save for retirement?), Smith-Schuster did what anyone would do—enlist the internet to help locate his wheels. He roped in his star teammate Antonio Brown, made the local news, and employed expert hashtag usage until the bike was found.

Smith-Schuster was willing to accept help from anyone to help find his bike. (Well, not anyone.)

In the NFL, that’s called, “Wisdom beyond your years.”

Yet for all of the attention he got this week, JuJu saw through the social media love.

He was right. He was started in less than 15 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, but ended the day as fourth-highest scoring player overall, behind only DeAndre Hopkins, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson.

The Steelers head into their bye this week, and JuJu is spending his time wisely. Smith-Schuster is taking his driving test on Tuesday, borrowing the Ford F-150 of Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who has been teaching the rookie to drive this season. (He only hit the gas and brake at the same time once, according to the veteran tackle.) He may not have a license yet, but Smith-Schuster is already the key to the Steelers’ best drives. He’s also learning what it means to be a lockdown receiver.

It seems like we’ll be seeing JuJu lock his bike up a lot more this season.