Milwaukee Talks: Former Green Bay Packers receiver Don Beebe
Training camp is just a few months away for the Green Bay Packers, and when the 2012 season officially gets underway it will mark 15 years since Don Beebe retired from the National Football League.
It doesn't seem that long ago when the Packers appeared in the second of back-to-back Super Bowls. It was a record sixth Super Bowl appearance for the speedy receiver from Aurora, lllinois, and he remains just one of two players to have ever been involved in that many.
I've gotten to know Beebe fairly well over the years, as he has been the head coach at Aurora Christian High School, a tiny, private school in Aurora that won the first state football championship in that city's history last November.
It seemed appropriate to catch up with the man known affectionately as "Beebs" by his teammates for this edition of Milwaukee Talks, considering the upcoming anniversary of the 1997 season and the fact that his life story may be coming to a theater near you.
After spending the weekend on the West Coast pitching his story to producers, Beebe took some time to chat before taking advantage of the weather and playing golf at Whitetail Ridge Golf Club in Yorkville, Ill. to catch us up on what he's been doing since leaving the game.
OnMilwaukee.com: You were out in California last week pitching a movie about your life?
Don Beebe: They were blown away by the story and they just loved it. They're right now in the works of getting some funding and I think they really want to try and put this thing together. We'll see where it goes. The book is going to come out sometime by May.
I could be the next Rudy I guess (laughs). But for me, I just want to use it as a platform to tell people about my faith and about never giving up and all those cliché'd things I've been fortunate to live. That's kind of my passion and where I want to take that.
DB: One of the guys I sat across from, from a publishing standpoint for the book, was the guy who actually did Rudy's book, David Dunham. David and the owner of (The Dunham Group, Inc.) leaned across the table after I told then my story – I talked to them for about an hour - and says 'This is way better than Rudy.' I said 'What are you talking about?' and he said 'Understand Rudy played one down – you actually made it. You actually did it. That is so much more appealing.'
The same thing with Invincible. I know Vince Papale and we've shared stories with each other and he even was like 'Oh my gosh, this is ridiculous.' The other thing they said was your story applies to everybody. Yeah, it's a faith-based story so it'll apply to the Christian sector, but you're every construction guy in America, the 5-11 white guy. You're that guy that never gave up and what everybody strives to do but sometimes can't. He says 'You're that guy.' 'You're a common man,' is what he said, and that is true.
I don't think of myself any different than anybody else. I don't look like a pro athlete. I could walk through a restaurant and they'll say 'He ain't no pro athlete' – unless I'm in Green Bay or Buffalo. It does have that appeal to have people go see it because they're living it.
It's certainly in its infant stages, but it's certainly one that has some momentum behind now.
OMC: You're entering your ninth season as the volunteer head coach for Aurora Christian. How long do you see yourself continuing on?
DB: I have always been a year-to-year guy. I'm getting that question a lot, with 'Well (son) Chad is going to be a senior, are you going to be done?' Well, if that was the case, if I was going to coach for Chad, why did I start eight years ago? I would've taken it up three years ago or just before he got in. That was never my motive. My motive was to impact kids and the school and community. That still is my mission. Until that mission changes, I'm not going anywhere.
There have been many opportunities I've had over the years to go professionally or collegiately, but I've turned them all down. I've had three more offers this offseason and I turned them down. I just feel like until God calls me away from Aurora Christian, I'm not going to go anywhere.
OMC: When Aurora Christian won the state title in November, you said it was a more fulfilling accomplishment than winning the Super Bowl with the Packers. Can you expound on that?
DB: My thoughts haven't really changed a lot in that winning a Super Bowl in a Green bay Packer uniform as a professional athlete in that community and state, it doesn't get any bigger than that from a professional standpoint. But, from a spiritual standpoint, from an impacting a community and kids standpoint, I don't think there's anything bigger than what we accomplished at Aurora Christian. I don't.
I have seen so many people, even outside the school, their lives just changed in seeing the euphoria in kids and parents and the school and community and that can't be matched by a professional sport from my perspective.
My perspective is that it's all about me as a player. Look at what I accomplished, look at this huge ring and all those things, which was a great accomplishment, don't get me wrong, but when you impact people outside of yourself – that's way more powerful. So those feelings are way more lasting for me.
And that team, no matter what – we'll have a reunion in 30 years and people around Aurora forever are going to talk about how Aurora Christian in 2011 was the first team ever. They can never take that away. Nobody can ever take that away from you. That in itself is a huge accomplishment when you're first. It'll always be talked about. It's a great thing.
OMC: I've got to tell you this story - you got me out of a speeding ticket one time. We had just finished talking when I was pulled over, and the police officer said he could tell I was in a pretty serious conversation. So I name dropped you and he said "Don Beebe? Be careful next time. Everyone loves Don up here."
What has that been like for you, to have that impact on people in Wisconsin?
DB: That's hilarious (laughs). You kind of really hit on what really I'm all about, what people should be all about in respect to relationships and just treating people with professionalism and just a kind manner.
It has nothing to do with me. I don't get credit for it because without my faith in Christ it's impossible to act that way because you get so mad and angry sometimes you just lash out and you don't want to sign autographs and just say 'screw you.' In the midst of all of those emotions, that even I have – we all get there – but I'm able to be mature in my Walk and say 'You know what, life is just different.' That's attractive to people. They admire that.
So my relationship with Packer people – that's the way I played, coming across the people and getting your head knocked off and catch the ball and walk back to the huddle – that's blue collar stuff. People love that stuff. What they hate is the guy who has all the talent in the world and it's all about them, and they walk around and they don't want to sign autographs because their agent told them not to. What's that? I don't look at myself as better than other people. I look at myself as we're all in this boat together man and so I think because of that, that's enduring to people, that's attractive.
I've got a lot of great relationships. I don't think I've ever, in a public arena, have ever turned anybody away or was mean to anybody because it's just not right. I'm always swilling to lend a helping hand, be nice to somebody, take a kid aside and try to help them in their Walk and I think people love that.
OMC: What were your feelings seeing the Packers winning the 2011 Super Bowl after being part of the last team to have won one?
DB: First of all, I'm a big Aaron Rodgers fan and Donald Driver, and I love to see great people become successful and win it. One thing about winning the Super Bowl in Green Bay, as a player, first of all, that legacy never leaves. It just doesn't. When we won it 30 years after the 60s teams, those guys are icons up there. They always will be. Just because we won it didn't tarnish the legacy of that group and just because they won it last year didn't tarnish the legacy we had during the 90s.
All I think that actually does is creates more of an awareness and gratitude of being a Packer fan. They just love that and being around that. I admire that and love to see the success of the Packers. My prayers are that Buffalo can get it done one of these years for those people. They deserve it.OMC: Can you update us on what you've been up with House of Speed?
DB: Our Green Bay franchise has trained a lot of those guys up there, even in the offseason (and) I have worked personally with over 50 guys who have played in the NFL, from the likes of Tony Romo, Michael Turner, Robert Quinn and Larry English and guys like that.
I'll be honest with you, that's fun and it's great because I like to see that side, that competitiveness, that dream and the gleam in their eye and all that, but my true passion in life is to impact a child that doesn't have a mom and dad that cares a whole lot and, is just defeated with no self-esteem whatsoever and to be able to impact and change a kid is what I'm all about.
Can you do it with these guys? Yeah, you can to some degree, but I like the competitiveness and helping them fulfill their dream of the ultimate, the NFL. I've kind of pulled back a little bit – we still do it, that level of an athlete – and our franchises are doing a lot of those guys .
We had 24 (franchises) but in 2011 I cut it back to 15. It was time to cut the fat. I told nine of them 'this isn't working.' They just weren't running a business. What we actually have done that's worked really well is I'm selling more now high school certifications and personal certifications which to me is so much better. We're selling the whole House of Speed package, equipment and everything to a high school. We go and train them, the equipment is all theirs. We sold the first one in November to Geneseo High School (in Geneseo, Ill.).
The personal trainer one is the same thing. They're not a franchise, they don't have pay royalties to us or anything of that nature. We go in there, we train them for three, four days and they're done and they become a personal trainer for House of Speed, but they have no ties to us. They can use our name but they have no ties to us anymore. That also is working out.
I still do a lot of public speaking, motivational speeches. Right now I do about 10 to 15 a year, but if this (movie) comes to fruition it's going to be a whole lot more than that.
OMC: You suffered multiple concussions in your career. What are your thoughts on the recent movement within the NFL to increase awareness and player safety?
DB: I was just out in California meeting with some doctors with the concussions and all the injuries and workman's comp. That's a big thing going on now with players in the league as you know, even before this concussion thing came out. There was a big suit on workers comp because they don't give players health insurance after they retire. So I'm out there meeting with three different doctors and you talk about, oh my goodness, I was in tests from 8:30 to 6:30 straight. Didn't even get to eat. It was ridiculous how many tests, from one doctor to another doctor. Each test was three, four hours. The last guy I was with had seen over 300 players over the last two years. He said he gets six to eight guys a day and he told me, 'Don, I've got to tell you, 70-percent of them it's a sad, sad deal'. He said they're physically disabled, dysfunctional mentally, he said it's sad and nobody's helping them. I gotta tell you, it's a bad deal now.
For me, yeah, I got my aches and pains and things of that nature and what have you, but man there's guys out there that need some help. And the sad thing is all these people read about $50 and $100 million dollar contracts and they think everybody's making that but that's not the case. Then they're beating their bodies up, they play for four years maybe, and then what? Then what? They just got the crap beat out of them and their career ended and nobody's there to help them with insurance. And as we know health care is a complete debacle. It was a sad deal.
Now they've got this concussion thing coming out, and that's a whole other ball of wax. That is going to be big thing, too, and everybody's jumping on that ship too. From what I have learned, the NFL actually had information on the long term effects and didn't tell anybody and they were basically telling these guys 'You're find, you're okay, you can play' well now, you see Dave Duerson (type) cases that bring it to light. People are flying off the handle now. It's going to be an ugly mess.
OMC: Did you want to be involved in testing because of your history?
DB: Oh yeah. I wanted to see where I was at. Not just me, but I've got four kids and a wife and a family. They're like you need to go get checked out to see where you're at. And that was all free. I didn't have to pay for nothing. If I would've done it here I would've had to pay for that. Do you know what that would've cost? Oh gosh! Man, tens of thousands of dollars of testing done. I had an MRI on almost every joint in my body. It was crazy. And each MRI on one joint took 15 to 20 minutes and you had to go in that tube. It was well worth it.
I don't know, I just had those tests done, so I don't know what the results are yet
OMC: People might not understand that part of what retired NFL players go through
DB: Exactly. I know some guys that I even played with …oh shoot, Kent Hull, one of my good buddies just died at 50.
His body was such a mess. Such a mess. Now he's dead. It's cases like that that most people don't hear about, which is kind of sad. A lot of guys deserve it. I'm doing fine, but a lot of guys out there need this stuff.
OMC: During Brett Favre's 2009 season in Minnesota, some friends and I were going back and forth if we could catch a pass from him. I told you about that and you laughed and said 'No you couldn't.' You raised your hand to show a bent finger and said 'That's a Favre.'
Was he the hardest thrower you've ever caught a pass from?
DB: There's no doubt. That's not even a question. Two things. One, on Saturday nights before the games we usually had a team meeting and all the wideouts would sit in the back row and (head coach Mike) Holmgren would hand out his top 15 plays and you were just hoping you weren't the guy catching a hitch or a slant in those first seven plays because you knew it was going to be high and hard and you did not want to be that guy.
The other thing is I used to practice in the offseason on a Jugs machine where I would put a helmet on, I would stand inches away from the ball coming out of the Jugs machine at about 60 miles per hour. Obviously I would never recommend anybody doing this – but having a football come out of Jugs machine at 60, 65 miles per hour 6 inches away from it will blow your hand off.
But what it did was two things: One, it deadened al the nerves in my hand so when I went into camp and catching Favre's balls, my hands were already dead to it. Then the other thing it strengthened them and softend them at the same time, and what I mean by that is you had to become a spiderweb – you had to be really soft with your hand to be able to give with it but it had to be real strong so it didn't go zipping through it. It developed really soft hands and real strong hands at the same time."
OMC: Any memory that pops to mind for you about Favre?
DB: I was in practice one day at the Don Hutson center and I caught a slant and it caught me right underneath my rib on my right side, right underneath my shoulder pad, and I thought he cracked my rib. I couldn't breathe.
So I get back to the huddle and the last thing you wanted was for him to know he got the best of you, so I wasn't going to let him know. So I'm kneeling over in the huddle and I'm struggling breathing and Frankie Winters the center goes 'Beebs, you alright?' and I look at him and I go 'eh' and Favre slaps me on the back and says 'What's wrong with you?' And I lifted up my shirt and you could see the purple dimples of the football and all four lines of where they meet at the end of the football in purple in my side. He slaps me on the back and says 'Catch it in your hands next time and you won't have a problem.' (Laughs). That's what he said. That was Brett, always joking around.
OMC: How many players have been to six Super Bowls?
DB: Me and Mike Lodish.
He played in Buffalo all four years nad then he went to Denver and won back-to-back with Denver. There's been several at five like Brady, but nobody (else) has been to six.
OMC: As time goes on, has perception changed about those four Buffalo Bills teams?
DB: No doubt. Wherever I go now people say you didn't win one, but good gracious you're the only team that's ever been to four (in a row). Nobody's ever done that. There's a lot of teams that have won back-to-back, teams that have been to two, three, but nobody's ever been to four in a row. That is the greatest accomplishment.
Anytime you can be the only person to do something in life, obviously if it's good, that's an accomplishment. That should be revered and looked upon as something that is a great accomplishment and it is. There's no doubt it is.
OMC: OK, some quick hit, answers here. Your first thought on …
DB: Great teacher. Man that knows football, no question. And just a man that you just love to play for because he understood what it meant to win.
OMC: Brett Favre.
DB: Middle linebacker playing quarterback. Reckless abandon. Fun loving. Understood how to play the game right. There was no pressure. That man loved to go out and play.
OMC: Aaron Rodgers.
DB: Cool, collected, within himself. Religious, faith-based guy that has a ton of talent that is very humble. A great person, I think, to play the game of football with.
OMC: Jim Kelly.
DB: Just like Favre. I can't say there's much difference in the two. They are so much alike it's scary, they're personalities, the way they approached the game, the way they approach life. Hands down two of the best guys you would ever want to play wide receiver for.
OMC: Packers fans.
DB: The best. The best. Everywhere you go you're revered, they just want to be part of that lifestyle and I think it's just really cool. I see it in the little kids and it's really something that's fun to be a part of, no doubt.
OMC: This current chapter of your life.
DB: I've always said this – anytime you could lay your head down at night knowing full well you impacted somebody for the positive, what more in life can be more rewarding than that? I'm enjoying life, I'm making a good living and I'm impacting people at the same time. I have no complaints whatsoever.
"I don't get credit for it because without my faith in Christ it's impossible to act that way because you get so mad and angry sometimes you just lash out and you don't want to sign autographs and just say 'screw you.' " i know plenty of non-christians who don't act like a-holes. the fact that bible thumpers like Beebe and Tebow think it's impossible to act responsibly without "christ in your life" is very condescending.
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