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DII Tribute Team member still paying it forward

By Brittany Johnson

“Fight. Finish. Faith.”

When former Southeastern Oklahoma State University quarterback Drew Beard reflects on his college career, he keeps coming back to those three words.

“If I was going to get a tattoo, that’s what I would get,” said the man who this year was named as the Great American Conference’s male representative on Division II’s 40th Anniversary Tribute Team being honored at the NCAA Convention.

That motto, which he first heard from his head coach at Southeastern, is derived from a Bible verse from the second book of Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” But for the two-time All-American, it has become more than just a motto. Based on his hard work, perseverance and steadfast faith, it has also become a guiding principle in his life.

As a kid growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Beard knew early on that sports would play a significant role in his life. He idolized athletes like Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan, so when he got to high school, he decided not to specialize in one sport. Although he had played football since sixth grade, Beard was also a member of the basketball, baseball and track teams at Rush Springs High School.

It didn’t take long, however, for Beard (and college recruiters) to realize that his future was on the gridiron.

“I realized quickly that playing quarterback and getting to be a part of a great team, a great group of people, was going to be a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it,” Beard said.

After finishing middle school with an impressive 31-1 record as a starting quarterback, much was expected of Beard at the high school level. Fortunately for Rush Springs, he didn’t disappoint. Beard led his team to the playoffs three years in a row, including a 15-0 record and a state championship title his junior year.

Ultimately, Beard opted to stay in-state and play for Southeastern Oklahoma State, then a member of Division II’s Lone Star Conference and the same college his cousin played for in the early 1990s. Over the next four years, the three-time all-Lone Star Conference North Division selection etched his name in both the record books and the memories of the people of Durant.

Although he spent his freshman year as a back-up, Beard held 10 school records by the time he graduated in 2005, including career marks for offensive yards (9,684), rushing yards by a quarterback (2,907), rushing touchdowns (28) and passing touchdowns (65). As a sophomore in 2002, he set new single-season rushing records for Southeastern with 171 carries and 13 touchdowns.

As a senior, he led his team to an 8-3 record and its first Division II playoff appearance. He also set a new single-season record for passing touchdowns (25) and broke the school’s single-game record for total offensive yards with 526.

For his feats on the field, Beard was twice named a Harlon Hill Trophy finalist, the award presented to the athlete selected as the most valuable player in DII college football.

Although the three-year team captain’s game-time performance earned him numerous accolades, it was his actions off the field that gave Beard a sense of personal fulfillment and set him apart from other student-athletes.

After joining in 2002, Beard served in the reserves throughout his entire college career and found time to balance his training obligations with class, homework, practice, games and extracurriculars. Beard used his spare time and influence at Southeastern to make a positive impact on those around him. As a result, he was part of the leadership team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and did work with the Native American groups on campus as well.

“My athletics career in college, as great as some people say it was, the things that happened off the field were the things that made the greatest impact on me,” he said. “I think they were the things that made the greatest impact on the people of Southeastern, as well as the community, the school and the opponents we faced.”

In 2005, Beard, who had always envisioned himself as a teacher and coach, received his degree in education. One year later, he earned his master’s degree in education, also from Southeastern. Upon graduation, he enlisted with the National Guard and began teaching at Lone Grove High School.

However, just over a year later, he was deployed on a nine-month tour to Iraq, an experience he found meaningful.

“It was an amazing time because I felt like I was back in the locker room with my buddies again,” he said.

While in Iraq, Beard won a flag football championship, yet another sign that sports, especially football, were integral components in his life.

When he returned to Oklahoma, Beard accepted a job as an area representative for the FCA. Now, he spends the bulk of his days working with student-athletes and paying forward the motto he adopted in college.

“What I try to do every single day is do what my coaches did for me,” he said. “And that is to encourage me in my ability, encourage me in my faith and challenge me to do things that I couldn’t do on my own.”

These days, Beard also spends a lot of time with his wife and two young children. Although he recently retired undefeated after three years of flag football, he still plays plenty of sports with the athletes he works with on a daily basis.

Beard, who still keeps in touch with teammates and coaches from his college days, warmly recalls his time at Southeastern and encourages prospective student-athletes to consider DII as an option when deciding on a school.

“If you can get a college scholarship at the Division II level, you should take full advantage of it,” he said. “Smaller classes, the family atmosphere. Schools like Oklahoma and Texas are a big deal, but what you do here is just as big and just as important as what they do. For people to come up after every game and ask me to sign autographs? Really? In Durant, Oklahoma? Big time is where you are. You can make it as big or small as you want it to be.”