DON BEEBE

DON BEEBE

… HOLDS THE RECORD FOR SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES BY ANY ONE
PLAYER: 6
… SUPER BOWL CHAMPION, 1997
… MEMBER OF 4 BUFFALO BILLS SUPER BOWL TEAMS, 1990 1993
… WIDE RECEIVER, BUFFALO BILLS, GREEN BAY PACKERS, 1989 1997
He’s such a good person, it gets overlooked what a good football
player he is.

BRET T FAVRE

DON BEEBE

I remember, when I was seven years old, asking God if he’d help me be something special in sports. This doesn’t surprise me now, since I was so competitive even at such a young age. I played so many sports well, but believe it or not, basketball was my passion. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t even have gone out for football. I asked him if I could just pass on football my junior year so I could throw myself into basketball. He said, Run crosscountry or play football. You make the call. I chose football. Good move. Attention football parents: Don Beebe did not play football until high school and yet he made it all the way to the top.

WHY I PLAYED AND WHY I NEVER QUIT

I played sports every season for as long as I can remember because of my dad. I didn’t play because he did, I played because he didn’t. Growing up, he was begged to go out for track and football because everyone knew how fast he was. But he said no. Instead, he hung out and smoked cigarettes and to this day, every day, he regrets it. He let me know I would be playing and that once I started, I would not quit.

THE DIFFERENCE ONE PERSON CAN MAKE

Coach Joe Thorgesen instilled the passion in the game that I still have today. I went from a guy who had to play in the NBA to a guy who was playing in the NFL. He told me I could be great if I applied myself, and he did it in such a positive way it just resonated. He’s also the reason I am a high school coach today. I see so many kids getting beat down emotionally by their moms, dads, and coaches that if I can help in any small way by instilling passion in the game and helping kids put it all in perspective, that’s what it’s all about.

NOT FITTING IN

Junior year, I was expected to figure in much of the offense. Coach Thorgesen called me aside one day and told me that the seniors wanted nothing to do with me, that they had a maturity issue and that I should

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stay the course and that things would fall into place. And they did. I accepted that I would not be one of the guys, and so I dealt with it. My senior year ended up great, and I’m just so glad my coach spoke to me and that I stuck it out. However, if I see something like that happening with the teams I coach today, I crack down right away.

DID I SAY, NEVER QUIT? 

I had a full-ride football scholarship to a Division I school, which from the small town I grew up in didn’t happen often. For a 5’10” white guy, that does not happen much. Wait a minute, I’m a 5’10” white guy. So I go to preseason football camp at Western Illinois and I got so sick. I couldn’t eat, and I was throwing up. I lost twenty-one pounds. It was horrible. I called my dad and said I couldn’t stay there. It was a combination of missing my girlfriend, who I wound up marrying; being homesick; and being ill. I ended up leaving. For three years I stuck close to home, working in construction, playing recreational basketball. Then something happened. I got football fever. I became obsessed and actually tried out for the Bears. Yes, the Bears! Essentially, they told me to go home. I did, and I enrolled at Western Illinois, but they couldn’t make me eligible to play. I wouldn’t give up. I enrolled at Western Illinois again and played a year.

I wasn’t ready for the NFL yet, so I transferred to a small NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] school, Chadron State College in Nebraska. (Playing for a NAIA school was like playing at a NCAA Division II or III level.) Most Division I athletes didn’t go on to play pro ball and the odds were considerably higher to even get a look from a NFL team if you played for NAIA school. Well, I beat the odds and got myself invited to the NFL Combine. I played well there and had some interest, but it was nothing serious. Through some fluke, a scout timed me in the forty-yard dash and word got out that I could run. I got into the NFL combine and suddenly a lot more people seemed curious. There I ran the forty and tied with Deion Sanders as the fastest ever. Suddenly the Packers and Raiders were at my doorstep. The Jets called, too, but it was the Bills who drafted me.

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You can’t make up a story like this, can you? But it’s all true! It’s likely you’ve witnessed the rest of his story. Oh, and I did mention that you should never quit?

THE PLAY DEFINES THE SPORT

The scene is Super Bowl XXVII. We were losing to Dallas 52 17 and Frank Reich fumbled the ball. I was running a fly pattern down the lefthand side when Leon Lett of Dallas scooped up the ball. I turned around and started running after this 300-pound lineman. Somehow, I caught him, but I couldn’t tackle him. He was just too big. But when he chose to put the ball out by his side, I knocked it away. When I did, he kneed me in the head and let me tell you, I was ticked. I didn’t think much of the play and I didn’t know what was happening across the country or in the television booth or anywhere else for that matter. I just knew we got blown out. After the game, I was sitting by my locker when the owner, Ralph Wilson, came up to me with tears in his eyes. He said, That play represents what we are about in this organization. 

Later, when I got to the podium, it was all people wanted to talk about. Not that we got whupped. They wanted to talk about Leon Lett and that play. I got boxes of fan mail letters, blowing away by millions the number of letters Jim Kelly got. Many were from dads all across the country. One said, I never had a great relationship with my son, but after that play I told him this is what it’s all about and we talked for hours. Our relationship has changed. We’re tighter now and we understand each other better. 

For me, it was only one football play, but for a good part of the country it meant so much more. What most people don’t realize about the play is that it wasn’t just about me running him down, it was about him not hustling into the end zone.

MY WRAP

The late Dick Schaap once said, Don is one of the greatest stories in sports. He was right. Don Beebe’s whole life led to this particular play. Beebe almost never quit, and if there was one guy who could catch Lett and would be driven to catch Lett, it’s Don. This story is the stuff of legend. It shows the

230 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME

heart of a man. It personifies why I wrote this book. It’s all about character, and that’s why it’s so perfect that after losing four Super Bowls he finally won one in Green Bay. The bottom-line lesson: if you try your best, you’ll always be able to live with the results.

DON BEEBE

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