His football career at Missouri hasn’t been without its setbacks, but East St. Louis High graduate Terry Beckner Jr. believes he’s on the right road.
Beckner, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle, has a new appreciation for the game after knee injuries prematurely ended his seasons in 2015 and 2016.
“It’s great to be back out there playing the game I love,” said Beckner, a former five-star recruit who chose Missouri over Auburn, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Nebraska and others. “They say you don’t realize you love something until it’s taken away from you. (Football) has been taken away from me twice. I don’t want to have any regrets when I’m done playing this game.”
There are none this season. Beckner, a junior, has a career-high 30 tackles and leads the Tigers (5-5 overall, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) with six sacks. He is tied for second on the team in tackles for losses (8 1/2) and quarterback hurries (three).
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“I love it,” Beckner said of playing defensive tackle. “It’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a little kid. I was running around the house when I was 4 or 5 years old.”
As a freshman, Beckner tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee during Missouri’s game against Brigham Young. As a sophomore, he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the Tigers’ homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State.
Long, excruciating hours of rehab followed, but the pain is in the past.
“It’s a blessing to be back. It’s great,” Beckner said.
Coming from East St. Louis, Beckner said it’s always been important for him to succeed and “make something better for myself and my family.”
A Jan. 20, 2016, arrest for marijuana possession, for which Beckner was suspended by coach Barry Odom, now appears to serve as a learning moment.
“When something is gone from you and you really love it, you see how much you want to buy into it even more to make sure that never happens again,” Beckner said. “When you’re on the field, you’ve got to realize there’s a lot more things besides playing football that you have to be aware of.”
The Tigers opened the season 1-5, but extended their winning streak to four Saturday by shellacking visiting Tennessee 50-16.
“We just stayed together,” Beckner said. “Usually, when stuff isn’t going right with the team, it’s because some people are worrying about other things. Everybody’s having miscommunication. Once everybody is buying into the same thing and everybody realizes they’re trying to get to that same goal, there’s a lot of unity on the team.”
Missouri, with games remaining at Vanderbilt (4-6) on Saturday and Arkansas (4-6) on Nov. 24, could find itself playing in a bowl.
“I haven’t played in a bowl game since I’ve been here,” said Beckner, the son of Terry Beckner Sr. and Jermaya. “Hopefully, we finish out the right way and we’ll be there.”
Beckner has the speed, quickness and physical prowess to play in the NFL, whether it be next season or 2019. Teammate Kaleb Prewett once said of Beckner: “He’s everything in a D-tackle – fast, physical, athletic. He can do it all. He really can.”
For now, Beckner is living in the moment.
“I’m not really worried about it right now,” he said of a professional career. “I’m just focused on trying to give everything to this team and make sure I’m doing everything right. I want to keep a straight head. You’ve got to be humble with everything coming your way. It’s been a great blessing to be here and do the things I’m doing. I’m grateful.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm