May 24, 2023

Passion and perspective: The story of “Coach Beck”

Kevon Beckwith is younger than three of the talented defensive linemen he is coaching at Coors Light Riders Training Camp. 

And, oh, how he would love to be one of them. 

But, circumstances being what they are, the 29-year-old guest coach is extracting the most from his situation and cherishing every moment with the Green and White. 

“The best part is just learning how important the Riders are to the province and learning all about the ways of Saskatchewan,” says Beckwith, who will soon return to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and resume his full-time duties as the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks’ defensive line coach. 

“It’s a community-owned team and it’s a very special place. The fans are amazing. In the organization, from the top down, there is alignment and you can feel that.” 

Beckwith also appreciates the opportunity to work with Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Craig Dickenson, Defensive Co-ordinator Jason Shivers, first-year Defensive Line Coach Del Cowsette and associates. 

“They have been giving me opportunities to be around professional athletes and coach these guys,” Beckwith says, “so it has been an amazing experience.” 

The feeling is mutual. 

“He’s got great energy,” Dickenson says. “He’s one of the guys we looked at for the D-line job. We really liked a lot of things about him, so we felt, ‘Let’s see if he’s willing to guest coach for us and get him into camp.’ 

“We’ve been thrilled with him. He has brought a lot of good juice to that D-line group. I think the D-line group is our strongest group and, with Coach Del and Kevon working with them, they’re getting excellent coaching along the way.” 

Anthony Lanier II is quick to concur. 

“He’s a good dude,” the Roughriders’ defensive tackle says of Beckwith. “He has a good mindset as far as putting it on us and making us understand what’s going on.

“With him getting right up there in the drills, it’s just like anybody who ever played football. They get into it. They understand what you’re feeling — that adrenaline, that pump — and they bring the energy as well.  

“That rolls over into us, whether it’s the brightest of days or the rainiest of days.” 

Beckwith has seen both. 

He experienced the highs of being a top player at Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, La., on the west bank of New Orleans. 

The lows? They would soon follow in unexpected fashion. 

“In high school, I was getting recruited and all that good stuff,” Beckwith recalls. “Right after my senior year, I was weightlifting, right before (the NCAA’s) signing day. I had a back injury doing a power clean. 

“If you look at it right now, my right leg is bigger than my left leg, just because I have some nerve damage and stuff like that in my spinal canal. 

“The doctor said, ‘You can’t keep playing football. If you get cracked back one time, you probably won’t be able to walk or have kids.’ 

“That was devastating as a young kid, thinking that you’re going to be playing college football.” 

Yet, he went to college, anyway — excelling academically while also working as a student assistant with the football team at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Beckwith, who studied health/health care administration/management, received a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in 2015 and a master’s degree two years later. 

“I’m so passionate about coaching this great game because it teaches you so much about the ups and the downs,” he says. 

“One of the darkest moments in my life — the game getting taken away from me — turned into one of the biggest blessings, which was me being able to coach at my alma mater, UL Lafayette.” 

After being a student assistant for three years, Beckwith — or “Coach Beck,” as he is popularly known — spent two more seasons on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ staff. 

Then he was off to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., and his first full-time coaching job.  

He was the Austin Peay Governors’ assistant defensive line coach in 2019. The “assistant” was removed from his job description the following year. 

Part of the 2021 off-season was spent with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns after Beckwith was chosen to participate in the NFL’s Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. 

Beckwith then returned to his home state as the defensive line coach at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La.  

From there, he assumed his current full-time role at Southeast Missouri State — with a stopover, of course, in Saskatchewan. 

With the Roughriders, Beckwith works closely with accomplished veteran defensive linemen such as Lanier II, Micah Johnson and Pete Robertson — three players who are in their 30s and therefore slightly older than their guest coach. 

“It’s crazy being around professionals and being around guys like that,” Beckwith marvels. “They’re just down-to-earth. 

“They want to be coached, and the best players want to be coached. They’re always trying to get every little detail out of you. That’s the most humbling experience.” 

In addition to providing pointers, Beckwith can also talk to the players about life in general, offering the perspective he has acquired over an eventful 29 years. 

“My message to the guys is that you just never know when your last snap is going to be,” he says. “I didn’t know that I was taking my last snap and it forever haunts me. Knowing that I didn’t take advantage of my last snap, ever, fuels my passion for coaching. 

“That is part of me every day that I come out here. I don’t care if it’s raining. I don’t care if it’s cold. I don’t care if it’s windy.” 

During one especially windy day at camp, for example, Beckwith cheerfully coached ’em up without wearing a jacket — and while wearing a smile that has become one of his trademarks. 

“I look for the little things,” he continued, “because the players go through a lot. 

“As a coach, you’ve got to put yourself in that same mental state of being able to create disadvantages for yourself and overcome those. 

“That’s kind of my thing right now — taking advantage of every day, every opportunity. I don’t take it for granted. 

“This is a step-by-step, day-by-day process for me. I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m not looking back. I’m just heading on down this road.”