|At 6-6 and 225 pounds, Green-Beckham will be welcome wherever he goes. (Richey Miller/MaxPreps)|
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- John Beckham is tired of answering his phone in a way that suggests even Mick Jagger can wear down from dating supermodels.
"In the beginning it was pretty cool having Bob Stoops call you, Jim Tressel call you," Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest High's football coach said. "Then, as time went on, it became almost like a burden. It was so much."
The reason they're melting down Beckham's cell phone is equally exhausted. The coach's son is only 18 -- still a kid, but in a sculpted gladiator's body. That's why they keep calling. That's why a helicopter landed on a playing field here last week bearing Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. It was all very Wagnerian and Apocalypse Now.
Charlie don't surf?
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At this point in the recruiting process, the No. 1 recruit in the country, Dorial Green-Beckham, doesn't particularly care.
"It was all right," said the player everyone wants, unimpressed.
And you can't blame him. Not much should bowl over the receiver described as the second coming of Randy Moss. Green-Beckham has talked openly with other media outlets about what he says is an alcoholic mother who is more than familiar with a courtroom. One brother is in jail. Another is fighting cancer. During his short life, home has sometimes been wherever he laid his head.
The recruiters have tried to lure him with promises and championship rings and promises of championship rings, but the subject of their fawning has been unusually resolute for a teenager. There is no hint where he is leaning. However, there is plenty of evidence he needs a nap. Asked when it all got to be such a drag, Green-Beckham says, "Sophomore year." That's two years ago.
"I've kind of gotten tired of it," he added. "Everybody wants to know. They'll have to figure it out Feb. 1. I don't tell them anything."
Why should he? The recruiting process is something none of these kids ever envision. They take your life -- your personal life -- and open it to the world. There have been days when eight to 10 letters arrived in one day -- from the same school. Read the kid's tweets. You can sense plaintive cries of loneliness about how he misses his girlfriend.
"For the most part our kids are lower-income kids. Some middle-income kids," Beckham said. "There's not really an upper-income class here. As far as players on my team, I have a lot of single-parent kids. There's a lot of battles we face."
Now throw in the desires of $4-million-a-year coaches. The end of the process cannot come soon enough for all parties here. Beckham has made it a habit to pick up coaches on their recruiting visit as a goodwill gesture.
"I am not kidding you," he said, "someone from the University of Alabama must have called me 10 times to make sure I was at the airport. Nick Saban was not going to get off that plane [until I was there]."
If they could only see the two of them now, in this setting. In the coach's office. If only the breathless recruitniks, the nagging coaches and completely wacked-out fans could experience this quiet moment. The coach of the nation's No. 1 recruit alone with the nation's No. 1 recruit.
There is talk of how to handle Wednesday, national signing day, when Green-Beckham will announce he is taking his talents to Missouri, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma or Arkansas. Those are the finalists. Will he pull a hat from underneath a table? Will he taunt us -- and them -- with some other grand announcement flourish?
Last year at his announcement, Georgia recruit Isaiah Crowell pulled out a bulldog puppy -- one wearing a Georgia jersey, in case there was any question.
"A lot of schools that are going to be left out did everything they could to recruit him," Beckham said. "There's no reason to disrespect them. I hope he shows a little bit of class."
Those words are invested emotionally. The "son" is officially an adopted son. Three years ago Beckham and his wife, Tracy, formally adopted Dorial and his brother, Darnell. That was two years after they had taken them in. Darnell, a sophomore, is the one with cancer. The prognosis is good, but Darnell has a way to go in his treatment. Beckham says the kid -- who may not see the field until he is a senior, if that -- already has two offers. Talk about strong genes.
Talk about strong parents. Tracy Beckham is herself fighting thyroid cancer. John Beckham is fighting exhaustion. It's no big deal. Long ago, they decided this would be their life. Twenty or so foster children have passed through their home here in southwest Missouri. The first child was adopted in 1987, three years after they were married.
Beckham makes references that perhaps Dorial and Darnell were saved by a stable family life just in time. But it probably doesn't make the brothers much different than several others in the Beckham household.
Without his family, says Dorial, "I don't know if I'd be here or not."
At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Green-Beckham is already close to those Randy Moss dimensions. At Arkansas, he would top off the tank of what could be the SEC's best offense. Texas desperately needs some spice for its moribund offense. Stoops' offense at Oklahoma routinely makes stars out of wideouts; same with Missouri. He could be the new Julio Jones, times two, at Alabama.
He's got the body of Terrell Owens, the hands of Jerry Rice and the speed of, well ... he's got speed. As a sophomore, Green-Beckham won state titles in the 100-meter dash and triple jump. During basketball practice, it looks like Lebron James has dropped in to work on his game with a bunch of kids. The Hornets won the Class 5 state basketball title in 2010 with their stud.
In his best sport, Green-Beckham became the national high school career leader in receiving yards. In 2011, Hillcrest won its conference for the first time in 10 years. On his first play as a freshman, he caught a touchdown pass against an unaware West Plains.
"Nobody knew we had him," Beckham said. "We knew we had him. They didn't know he existed. We decided the first play we would chuck it up."
From there, it was on. A Big 12 offensive coordinator called one day to inquire. He couldn't believe the kid was a freshman and asked for a tape. Soon after, the coach made sure to pass through town to gaze upon Green-Beckham -- in a P.E. class.
Last week, it was Pinkel. Texas and Oklahoma visited this week. Green-Beckham will visit Missouri this weekend.
"People really read too much into what he says," Beckham said. "They interviewed him last week before a tournament in St. Louis and he said, 'I have to go to Missouri next week.' They all get hung up on 'I have to' instead of 'wanting to go.' That's just a little example."
Right now the world just wants to take -- information, time, a commitment. But the Beckhams lives have been about giving back since finding out they couldn't have children. The Green brothers grew up in St. Louis with four other siblings, sons of Charmelle Green whom the Missouri Department of Corrections shows is on probation for receiving stolen property.
"We talk all the time, every week," Dorial said. "She is going to be at graduation."
What do they talk about, the mother who apparently can't take care of her children, including one of the most supreme high school athletes in the country?
"Just how proud she is," he said.
"If you would have seen this kid when he came to our house, he was withdrawn," John Beckham said. "He was in our house for months and we had very little exchange besides, 'What kind of cereal do you want?' The fact that he does as well as he does is pretty impressive."
The coach's biggest regret is that the relationship is only five years old. Today, it clearly thrives. That explains the hyphen and extra surname. When asked what he calls Beckham, the receiver quickly chirps, "Dad!" But life is going to change fundamentally and quickly. This is about more than a father about to send his talented son off to college. Beckham wishes there had been more time to bond because time is slipping away.
On this day coach/dad and player/son are arguing about the height of a little miracle. Six years ago Tracy somehow got pregnant. Little Eliza now comes up to Dorial's hip. Maybe.
"She is very proud of Dorial," Beckham said. "Very proud and protective."
That's probably why, if you look at his list of finalists, Green-Beckham seems intent on staying close to home. The prodigy didn't go to any camps. Why would he? There was no need. You go to camps to be seen. Everyone already knew about him.
Formal offers can't be made until the junior year, but schools would still send questionnaires and camp info. The coach and his player quickly sorted the letters by sincerity. Form letters were put aside. Those that were personalized, handwritten from coaches, were scrutinized.
At the end of a long grind, they are both ground down.
"No human being has time to open it all and look at it," Beckham said. "It's a constant. It's a lot."
As a junior at Hillcrest, Kingsley Ehie got one of those questionnaires. It was from Army and he threw it away. His grades were good enough, but he had no idea this was a way out -- a way out way before anyone knew about Dorial and adoption and growing up with a foster family. The two grew up as "brothers" in the same household with the Beckhams.
Coach/dad convinced him to fish the letter out of the trash.
Ehie is from Nigeria. As he describes it, his parents were from a different world culturally. If the Beckhams could expose their son to the American dream, his birth parents gave their blessing for Kingsley to live with them. Ehie has been an anchor in the Dorial recruiting process. The Army thing worked out. Having just graduated, he heads for officer training school in Georgia in a couple of weeks.
"A lot of people told me that I'd be set up for life" if he went to Army, Ehie said. "I didn't fully comprehend that."
He has accompanied Green-Beckham on his visit to Arkansas, passing on the knowledge of how college alone can change your life.
"There's been so much publicity, so much media attention," Ehie said. "The way Dorial is, it's so much for one person. If you wanted to read every article, every message board, you'd go crazy.
"He doesn't care that much. ... He doesn't consume himself with all this."
Which is probably the best way to go at this point.
If they could all see them in that quiet office this week -- a kid, about to become a man, a coach and father not quite ready to let go. His phone is off. The son is about to go off into the world. They've only been together five years.
"We have a good relationship, but we're not as close as we would have been if we would have had him since he was five," Beckham said. "Each month, each year, we grow closer but, still, it's just not right."