Football wasn’t always my first priority. Before committing to football, another sport had my attention. I grew up a basketball player. Football only became something I thought I was good at my sophomore and junior year in high school. That’s when it struck me that I could pursue it. Before that, I played basketball all the time. We were a basketball family. My dad built a basketball court for us outside of our house so we wouldn’t get in trouble or be in places we didn’t need to be. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when a coach came up to me and said, “Kelvin, there are a lot more scholarships for football than there are for basketball.”
At the time I was a 6-foot-3 center — a little too short to play college or pro ball. I wasn’t a Chris Paul, Deron Williams or J.J. Redick; I was more of a Mark Jackson-type. I just backed it down the whole length of the court. But when I heard there were more scholarships on the football field, I took that advice and started to run with it. I’ve played football and basketball since I was a very small kid. But when it was time to get serious, it was football that stuck.
Growing up, my sports heroes were David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, and Sean Elliott. Those were the people who I saw as special. For most of my childhood, my dad worked a lot. There were many days we didn’t see him in the morning and we didn’t see him at night. It was my mother, my three siblings, and me. Occasionally, my dad would sneak in for dinner and then get back to work. Most nights consisted of my three siblings and I doing homework at the dinner table with my mother. I remember cooking Hamburger Helper, corn and green beans almost every night. But I turned out just fine.
Faith was always a part of my every day routine. We were in church almost every day of the week, sometimes three times on Sunday. At 91 years old, my grandfather is still the pastor, my dad the assistant pastor and my mom a missionary through our hometown church. I was also very active in the church as the percussionist on Sundays. I looked forward to it because I got to work on my craft. I grew up in a very small church but faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ was everything to us. Knowing who our Sovereign God is was very evident. The Trinity was something we talked about and understood at a very young age.
I never got tired of being a Christ-follower, but being at church so often did limit other experiences in my life. I never had a sleepover, we didn’t know what it was to go to the movies or out to dinner. Hanging out with friends just didn’t happen. If we had church that started at 7pm and we were playing basketball with friends on our court, we would have to leave our friends to finish the game without us.
We didn’t get a chance to experience a lot of other things. In hindsight, we were very sheltered. Leaving for college provided a very different exposure. I didn’t have my parents telling me when to go to church or dictating my schedule or my limitations. While this lifestyle was ingrained in me from a young age, since being in New York, I haven’t found that same type of cadence. Even at age 29, I look for the continuity of being in corporate worship, community, prayer and small groups where we are talking about the Gospel with other Christ-followers.
College at Southern Methodist University was a culture shock for me. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Being exposed to so many different ways of life and ways of thinking in one of the richest and most affluent areas in the entire nation was new to me.
Early on in college, I went down a path that was not godly. I got involved with women who I shouldn’t have and I knew it wasn’t right. During that period of independence, I came to a point where I had to build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, I knew the Bible, I knew who God was, I could quote scripture and I knew how to be on time for church, but I didn’t have that personal relationship.
That relationship is clear to me now. The personal relationship I have with Him now is because of what I went through in college. Those experiences helped me become the person I am today. I had to know Jesus Christ for myself and who the Holy Spirit was, instead of living on my daddy’s faith, my momma’s faith or my grandpa’s faith. Suddenly I was living on the faith that God had graciously granted me personally, and it’s sacred and genuine.
— Kelvin Beachum, New York Jets offensive tackle
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