Derrick Beckom Jr. remembers the day he was told his dream was over.
As a freshman at Columbus High School, Beckom was once told by one of the Falcons coaches, “I don’t think you’ll ever play college football.”
Beckom weighed only 135 pounds and was informed that he was too small to play on the next level. The comment stayed with him.
“I still remember that day and I still remember that moment and how I felt and I said to myself, ‘I will never let anyone tell me that I can’t do something,'” he said.
Now, close to realizing his NFL dreams, the former hawk has fulfilled his own promise. He spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons playing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and took over the field for Division II Harding University in 2019.
On March 24th, Beckom took part in the Mississippi State Pro-Day at Davis Wade Stadium. He turned heads with a strong performance and received interest from several professional teams ahead of Thursday’s NFL draft.
“It would honestly mean a lot, especially because I’ve worked for it all my life,” said Beckom. “It’s a blessing to be here in this position.”
Beckom had the opportunity to compete alongside former Columbus classmate Kylin Hill on Bulldogs Pro Day. The 5-foot-9, 193-pound defender posted a vertical jump of 34 inches and did 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
“I feel like I was having a good day,” he said.
Beckom and his agent at Maven Sports Group have each spoken to several NFL teams. Maven, part of Cash Money Records, represents wide receiver Mike Evans, the offensive tackle against La’el Collins and 15 players in the 2021 draft class.
It means Beckom has more of a team behind him than many small college players. Beckom admitted that it can be an “uphill battle” for athletes at schools like Harding, a private Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas, with fewer than 5,000 students.
“When you come from this smaller school, you don’t get the visibility that smaller schools get,” Beckom said. “You can’t always play on TV every Saturday.”
But Beckom said he loved his time in Harding, even though the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It still fit in four and a half hours from home.
“I was there and I didn’t know anyone, but when I got there I felt comfortable because of my coaches who loved me as I should have been loved as a player,” said Beckom.
He came to Harding after attending the competitive conference of the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges with the Bulldogs in Perkinston for two years. Beckom said that some players who had joined him on the Gulf Coast came arrogantly thinking it was “just JUCO” and resembling high school. The level of competition soon proved they were wrong.
“You quickly learn that it’s not just JUCO Ball,” said Beckom. “You cannot underestimate the talent at JUCO level.”
As a freshman, Beckom played eight games on the Gulf Coast, made 32 tackles and 14 assists, and forced fumbling. In his second season he had a total of 59 tackles and assists and forced two fiddles.
With Harding, Beckom made three starts in 12 games in 2019. He finished the game with 30 tackles – including two at a loss – and broke two passes.
He said he put countless hours in the weight room and practice field into the game and the extra work could make up for his relative lack of size.
“You can’t measure the size of your heart and how you play the game,” Beckom said. “Just because one player is an inch or two shorter or five pounds shorter than the others doesn’t mean they can’t compete with the talent of a six-foot defender. It’s all about the mentality you have of how you attack everything you do and that shows up in the field. “
He’s not sure if he’ll hear his name this weekend, but the important thing is just having the chance to be by Hill’s side.
“It definitely means a lot to have the chance of two Columbus High School boys being drafted that same year,” Beckom said. “That would mean so much to this city – we could represent this city at the level of NFL football. I have a feeling we can both do a great job and give something back to this city in the future. “
Beckom already has plans how to do it. As a personal trainer, he hopes to work with athletes in all of the Golden Triangle sports and to give scholarships to those who do not have the financial means to pay for their own training.
It will be his way of giving back after what may soon be a “life changing” day.
“It’s going to be an emotional moment,” said Beckom.