Chip Scoggins: U's Beal not ready to give up sport he loves

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2012 - 10:16 PM

Despite the latest in a long line of serious injuries, the Gophers linebacker vows to return for one more season.


Brendan Beal is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee after twice tearing it in his left.

Photo: Jesse Johnson, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Brendan Beal loves playing college football. Unfortunately, his knees don't.

Those two truths have continually collided, and because of that we will probably never realize Beal's true potential as a linebacker. And that leaves him frustrated and almost at a loss for words.

"The football gods just really haven't been on my side with injuries," he said.

The Gophers junior linebacker faces yet another lengthy rehabilitation after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a loss to Nebraska in November. He has already torn the ACL in his left knee twice. He also missed one season because of a neck injury.

But he refuses to hang up his cleats for good. He is determined to return for his senior season, even if some question his sanity in attempting another comeback. He doesn't want to go out this way. However unrealistic it sounds, Beal wants to prove to himself and everyone else that he can still become the player who was wooed by some of college football's elite programs.

"There's that burning desire in me to show the world what I can do," he said. "I know the player I was. I just haven't had that chance to go shine."

This isn't the script Beal envisioned for himself. A five-star recruit from Pennsylvania, he was rated among the top linebackers nationally as a senior and held scholarship offers from Florida, Southern California, Louisiana State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

He signed with Florida in 2008 and joined Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin in college football's glamour program at the time. Beal enrolled early and expected to play as a true freshman. He had high hopes.

"I wanted to be the Tim Tebow of that defense," he said.

But he ripped up his left knee a week before the season opener. He rehabbed and felt healthy as his second season approached. But a blindside hit in training camp left him with a herniated disk and another missed season.

Beal transferred to Minnesota in 2010 and sat out that season, per NCAA rules. He finally thought he would see his first college action in 2011, but a teammate crashed into his left knee in practice two days before the opener against USC. In addition to tearing his ACL, Beal suffered other damage to the knee. The injury was so severe that Beal visited renowned New York surgeon Dr. David Altchek.

"A lot of people didn't think I would get back from that one," Beal said.

He defied those odds and, by all accounts, looked impressive in fall camp before this season. But he played limited snaps in a backup role, collecting only 16 tackles. His season ended prematurely when he heard a pop in his right knee while grappling with a Nebraska lineman.

Beal and Gophers coach Jerry Kill shared a quiet moment in an empty locker room that day. Kill put his arm around Beal and tried to console him. He joked that he wishes he could give Beal his own knees.

"We talked about life and kind of laughed a bit," Beal said.

Beal has maintained a positive outlook and even his sense of humor. He walked into the Gophers team room last week on crutches and smiled.

"Third time's a charm, right?" he said.

If only it were that simple. Beal's determination and courage are admirable, but you wonder if someone will try to convince him that his long-term health is not worth the risk of another comeback. Advancements in ACL surgery and rehab make multiple comebacks possible, but hopefully Beal doesn't jeopardize his ability to enjoy a functional life by going down this path again. He said he won't put himself in a bad position if his knee doesn't respond properly.

"I don't know what's going to happen with this rehab," he said. "But I'm going to work my butt off to get back. It's so frustrating because of everything I've been through. There are days I just sit there and I break down. I just love the game."

The game hasn't always loved him in return, but it has provided him other opportunities. Beal graduated last spring with a degree in business marketing. He earned academic All-Big Ten honors with a 3.75 overall grade-point average.

Beal is pursuing his masters in financial mathematics and spends his days studying quantitative finances and writing mathematical algorithms. He hopes to land a job as a hedge fund manager or portfolio manager.

But first he wants to give football one more shot, even though his knees have had enough.

"At times I just sit there and I'm like, 'Is God telling me something?' " Beal said. "But I'm a fighter. I know my ability and I know I still have it. I just need a break."

Chip Scoggins •

  • related content

  • Team policy violation to keep U receiver McDonald out of game

    Monday December 24, 2012

    Gophers freshman receiver Andre McDonald will not play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston on Friday because of a violation of team policy.

  • Brendan Beal practiced in April 2011, a year after transferring to the Gophers from Florida. A five-star recruit in high school in Bethlehem, Pa., he chose the Gators over several other prominent programs, but injuries have derailed his promising collegiate career.


    8 p.m. Friday • Reliant Stadium, Houston • TV: ESPN (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Miami 5 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 6
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Cincinnati 13 FINAL
Cleveland 2
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
Chicago WSox 6
Kansas City 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Seattle 1 FINAL
Milwaukee 15
San Diego 3 FINAL
Arizona 3
Washington 3
LA Angels 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
Texas 6
Oakland 6 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Indiana 107 FINAL
Milwaukee 111
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Carolina 5
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Washington 3
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 4 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 2
Nashville 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
NY Rangers 5 FINAL
Ottawa 1
Florida 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
Montreal 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Colorado 4 FINAL
Vancouver 1
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
North Carolina 72 FINAL
Wisconsin 79
Evansville 89 FINAL
Louisiana 82
West Virginia 39 FINAL
Kentucky 78
Xavier 60 FINAL
Arizona 68
St Johns 55 FINAL
Villanova 63
NC State 79 FINAL
Temple 80
Missouri 55 FINAL
Michigan 65
Oral Roberts 64 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Duquesne 39 FINAL
West Virginia 60
Ole Miss 70 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 82
Northern Colorado 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 69
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question