AURORA – When people think of Don Beebe the athlete, one play comes to mind.
It was in Super Bowl XXVII, when his Buffalo Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys 52-17. It could have been worse, if not for Beebe.
Late in that game, Dallas defensive tackle Leon Lett recovered a fumble and rumbled toward the end zone. He prematurely raised the ball with his right hand before crossing the goal line, however, and Beebe, one the NFL's fastest players, chased him down and knocked the ball away, saving a touchdown.
Beebe played nine seasons in the NFL, caught 219 passes for 3,416 yards, and scored 25 touchdowns. He also played in six Super Bowls – four with Buffalo and two with Green Bay.
My memory of Beebe, though, precedes his NFL days, and it involves the Oregon Hawks.
Beebe was a three-sport (football, basketball and track) athlete at Kaneland High School (class of 1983, just like me), and a broad smile came over his face when I brought up a basketball game during his junior year that I happened to attend.
It was a sectional game against Oregon, and Beebe helped the Knights pull out a narrow victory over the Hawks.
"I made a steal with not much time left on the clock – I think it was under 10 seconds," Beebe said. "I made the steal, took a couple of dribbles, dished it to Bill Mangers, and he made the shot at the buzzer to beat Oregon. That was something else."
Beebe attended college at tiny Chadron (Neb.) State, after transferring from Western Illinois, and was drafted in the second round by the Bills in 1989. He turned heads at the NFL Combine with a time of 4.21 in the 40-yard dash, and that blazing speed helped him stay in the league for nine seasons.
In 1998, he founded a company called the House of Speed, to train athletes in the essentials of top performance, speed, and character. The business now has locations in 11 states.
He's coached football at Aurora Christian since 2004, and has built the program into a powerhouse. The Eagles have won the last two 3A state titles, and are 96-25 under his watch – including three wins against Oregon the past 4 years in the playoffs. It's not just about the wins and losses, he stressed.
"I just enjoy coaching kids, and helping them fulfill their dreams," Beebe said. "I remember when I was a kid and had those dreams as a high school athlete, and that's why I'm at the high school level. I'm having the time of my life."