Terry Beckner Jr. already an example to several in his community.
East St. Louis, Ill., is indeed a football town.
Checking out the Flyers on Friday nights at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium helps a struggling city forget its problems for a few hours.
Local heroes that suit up in the orange and blue give the young kids in the stands the hope that they can do something special with their lives.
Becker Jr. will do the same for others.
Named by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 2 prospect overall in the class of 2015, Beckner Jr. already holds double-digit scholarship offers from the likes of Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio State. Standing in at 6 feet 4, 268 pounds, the explosive defensive lineman is literally the next big thing to come out of the storied East St. Louis program.
“It’s just a blessing,” Beckner Jr. said. The Flyers program has won several state championships and two National Championships.
“I feel like a regular player. I’m just going to keep working hard. I didn’t know I was that good to be a five-star player. I was surprised.”
Beckner Jr. racked up 77 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore.
The coaching staff at East St. Louis is not surprised.
Coach Darren Sunkett first saw Beckner Jr. when he was in the seventh grade. Two years later he was already suiting up on the varsity.
“I think the biggest thing about Terry is just his competitive nature,” Sunkett said. “He’s just an outstanding competitor. He came in as a freshman with the mindset that he could play with the upperclassmen and make the varsity team. From the moment he stepped on the field, that’s what he sought out to do.”
By the end of his sophomore season, Beckner Jr. was dominating at the point of attack. He finished the season with 77 tackles and five sacks. At the recent Chicago Nike Football Training Camp, he ran a 4.89 electronic-timed 40-yard dash. By his senior year, the coaches at East St. Louis are hoping to have that in the 4.6 range.
“The biggest thing is his get-off,” Sunkett said. “Terry has an outstanding first step. That’s one of the biggest things for a defensive lineman to have. After that, he’s a young kid that plays very well with his hands.”
Family Keeps Beckner Jr. Focused
East St. Louis has a population of 40,000 people and the highest crime rate in the United States according to the Rebirth East St. Louis website.
The high school dropout rate is at 67 percent, and children living in poverty is at 74 percent.
Jermaya White has succeeded in making sure her son doesn’t add to those statistics.
“It’s a dream come true,” White said. “I never thought my son would be doing this.
“He’s a very respectful kid. Well mannered. Stays to himself. He’s not a trouble guy. He’s very active in other things. He’s into church. He plays basketball as well. He’s very good at that. Don’t get bad complaints about him in school. His grades could be a little higher but he’s doing everything on the right track. I’m going to keep guiding him and hope things take off in whatever career he chooses. I try to keep him away from all the negatives and always keep him involved with something, and in his spare time he’s with the family having fun.”
“He has a family that plays a big part in his life and has his back 100 percent. Whatever he says he wants to do, we strive to get it done.”
Beckner Jr. hears and sees the negative around him, but he also sees lots of positives. Several of his teammates are also getting major college looks. They have plans to add another state championship to the trophy case. He’s hitting the books and thinking about college.
“I’ve just stayed focused and kept working hard,” Beckner Jr. said.
Beckner Jr. hasn’t met Terry Hawthorne but he’s inspired by him. Hawthorne was a Parade All-American receiver in high school, and ranked inside the Top100 in the 247Composite class-of-2009 rankings. A cornerback at Illinois, Hawthorne was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft.
Folks in the community are beginning to realize Beckner’s potentially on the same track for much of the same and perhaps more. He likes the positive love.
“It feels good,” Beckner Jr. said. “You get a lot of attention.”
Recruiting Takes Off
Between Beckner Jr. and his teammates, college coaches have been giving East St. Louis a lot of attention during the current spring evaluation period.
Beckner Jr. still finds it crazy that every college coach that walks through the door has an interest in him.
“Terry Beckner is a huge bright spot,” East St. Louis assistant coach Harith Mitchom said. “The accolades he’s been getting is tremendous for those kids. Living in the city and being around those statistics, it’s kind of daunting sometimes when you see that stuff. The statistics are what they are. All those kids like to come play football. To get those accolades and be one of the bright spots, and be someone that you can talk about and brag on is a huge thrill for those kids. You talk to Terry and he said the other day I didn’t know I was that good. It’s one of those things. He’s very humble.”
Beckner will also be one of the team leaders off the field.
“He’s one of those kids that leads by example, not just verbally,” East St. Louis defensive line coach Shane Fast said. “This is my fifth year here. We have had so many kids come through that have so much potential. There are a lot of opportunities to make bad decisions here. There are a lot of circumstances that are not in our kids’ control that goes against them. For a kid to separate himself from that and rise above that is not an easy thing. When a kid does that it’s exciting and makes what we do worthwhile.”
Beckner Jr. has a worthwhile experience ahead.
He’ll soon have over 40 scholarship offers. He’s hoping that USC and LSU will be two of them. He’s already excited about his full rides from Ohio State, Kansas and Missouri, pegging them the early top three. He added he’s still learning about each program and will take his time with the recruiting process.
“The college coaches are just amazed by his size and strength,” Sunkett said. “Coaches come in and see him work out and they see a 6-foot-5, 260-pound kid throwing up a lot of weight in the weight room and he’s out there flying through agilities and he’s as athletic as your WILL linebackers out there. The kid is cat quick.”
The kid is also 247Sports five-star.
"The 6-foot-3.5 Beckner is one of the most explosive defensive line prospects in the 2015 class. Not only did Beckner turn in standout testing performance at the May Nike NFTC in Chicago running a laser-timed 4.89 forty and uber-quick 4.36 shuttle at 268 pounds, but is also just as quick on video. Beckner is the modern day versatile defensive lineman that could play in a three man front at end or a four man front at multiple positions as he physically matures with the frame to carry 295-300 pounds in time. Not only does the high school end with double-digit verbal offers possess a quick first step, but also displays a closing burst and finishes plays. Beckner's quickness not only shows up on the first step, but also in reactive situations in which he has to show body quickness and change of direction. Athletic in his stance, Beckner looks like an athlete pre-snap, and then also throughout plays with the ability to play with low pad level and leverage -- although that is an area nearly every prospect can continue to improve from a consistency standpoint. Beckner also shows an impressive motor for a young line prospect." – Gerry Hamilton, National Scouting Director, 247Sports
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