There's just something about sports and coaching and DNA and how it gets into the bloodstream.
Some 35 years ago, Pat Beckman was a coach's wife at Adrian College in Michigan. There were five little boys who would go to football practice every day to run around and roll all over the blocking dummies and high-five the players and hug their dads.
"Some days, it was the only chance they'd have to see their fathers," Pat recalled.
So the wives of the coaches got some old Adrian jerseys and pants and cut them down to size, got out needles and thread, and created some mini-Bulldogs. Their sons would wear those uniforms to practice, they'd wear them to bed, they'd wear them to games, they'd wear them everywhere except church.
Five little boys Tom Heckert, now the general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles; Billy Davis, now the linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals;
Ted Beckman, now the president of a capital management firm that handles finances for 28 NFL coaches; Brett Davis, now a Houston-based sports agent, and Tim Beckman, who yesterday became head football coach at the University of Toledo.
They're big boys now, but the same blood is flowing through those veins.
"I tell recruits I've had 43 years of coaching experience," Tim Beckman, who happens to be 43 years old, said. "I was born to it. When you get to experience the life my dad has had, and our family has had, well, I knew right away this is what I wanted to do."
There were a dozen members of Beckman's family on hand for yesterday's press conference at the Sullivan Athletic Complex. None was more proud to be there than Dave and Pat Beckman, who Tim called "the real head coach of our family and probably my best friend."
Of course, it was Dave, not his wife, who was head football coach at Highland High School, just south of Cleveland, when Tim was born. From there Dave went to Warren Harding High as an assistant, then to Hubbard High School as head coach. After that, in order, came stops at Adrian College, the University of Evansville, the University of Iowa, and Lamar University. Then it was on to the NFL as a player personnel executive with the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers. Finally, he made a stop in the CFL as player personnel director and head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
(When word spread through the coaching community yesterday morning that Tim had snagged the Toledo job, the first call his father received was from ex-Browns coach Sam Rutigliano.)
Young Tim was there every step of the way.
"You know how little kids draw stick figures?" Dave asked, chuckling. "Tim would do that. But he'd put numbers on them. He's always wanted to coach, and I'm so happy for him that he gets a chance to run his own program. He's just an aggressive, fired-up kid; well, I guess he's not a kid now. But he knows how to win, and he knows the right ways to do it."
UT's new head coach has done some traveling of his own. And he tipped his hat yesterday to all of the head coaches he has worked with along the way, starting with the legendary Dick Strahm at Findlay College, where Tim played and then, after suffering a neck injury, became a student assistant coach.
"Imagine being on the field before NFL games with Sam Rutigliano and Marty Schottenheimer," Tim said. "Imagine being able to sit in staff meetings with national championship coaches like Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. Gary Blackney gave me a chance to be a 31-year-old defensive coordinator at the Division I level at Bowling Green. Coach [Mike] Gundy gave me a chance to do it in the Big 12 at Oklahoma State.
"I've been lucky and blessed to learn from all of them, to get their insights into how to build a program and be successful and graduate athletes. All of those coaches are part of what Tim Beckman is as a football coach and a person."
Those comments were genuine; far more than mere lip service. Still, they're just words. Everything in life really starts and ends with family. And if you wanted to know Tim Beckman's real inspiration, all you had to do was watch his eyes every time he glanced at the man sitting in the front row yesterday.
"I was a young guy just getting started," Tim said. "I went to a coaching convention with my dad and I met [then-Iowa coach] Hayden Fry. He said, 'Are you really, seriously going to get into this?'
"I told him, 'Yes, sir. It's all I want to do. It's in my blood. My father put it there.'•"