Think back to the tail end of the 2012 NFL draft, after the Pittsburgh Steelers made tackle Kelvin Beachum their fourth of four seventh-round draft picks, not far removed from the honor of being Mr. Irrelevant.
Recall the dreadful preseason that he had as a rookie, during which he struggled just to not be flagged for a penalty or not get in a teammate’s way, and the near disbelief over the fact that after all that, he actually made the roster.
Imagine how far he had to come to be able to be standing at the media room podium in front of the microphone addressing the gathered media during Phase One of the offseason program as the team’s starting left tackle.
That’s by no means a slight at Beachum, but rather a tip of the cap, and a token of admiration for how much work he’d had to put in to get from borderline roster credibility to blindside protector of a championship quarterback.
In reality, however, it’s not so terribly surprising.
Since he first stepped into the league, he’s been viewed by his comparatively slight stature for a modern-day tackle, (admittedly decreasingly less) awkward body composition, and baby face, which all conspire to make him far from intimidating.
But at the same time, he’s always shown himself to be an intelligent, cerebral individual. And as time has born out, he’s also got a chip on his shoulder that has helped carry him on this journey to NFL success.
And now, two years later, we find Beachum standing up in front of the podium as the representative of his fellow offensive linemen, the former 248th overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft. And he does so with confidence and authority.
“This is a new year”, he told the media. “We have new drive, we have bigger goals, and we have things to take care of right now. The past is behind us and it’s time to move forward”.
“That’s just how I see it”, he asserted, “and I think that’s how a lot of the guys see it in the room. We have to do something right now. We can’t look at the past, we can’t look at what’s been done in the past, we have to take care of what’s going on right now”.
We already knew that Beachum was a capable public speaker. He gave the commencement speech to his graduating class as he completed his Master’s degree. Jim Wexell of Steel City Insiderhad this covered back in 2012:
When it’s all said and over with, I want to be an authority figure who’s also a role model for young African-Americans. Just being able to pave the way for people of all races and ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds to be successful in life, and I think I can do it as an authority figure. I’ve got the economic background to understand the money side of it, and then also the organization dynamics, which is what the Master’s was in – being able to handle big-time organizations, understanding the inner workings of how an organization works.
When looking back, it’s easier to see that Beachum is very much still the same person that the Steelers drafted in 2012. But he’s grown up so much from a football perspective that he’s now seen in a different light. His will to succeed was there from the start, but it seemed so much more improbable back then. In 2014, it would be hard to bet against him.