Newsmakers 2010: Rockets’ red glare: Tim BeckmanWritten by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
When it comes to football coaches, the Average Joe often pictures slightly potbellied, middle-aged men with the patience of drill sergeants who incessantly yell at their players and pace the sidelines to badger officials. What often gets lost in translation on TV is the relationship that goes on behind the scenes between coaches and players in practice, film study and team activities. While second-year Toledo head coach Tim Beckman is as intense, energetic and animated as football coaches come, his relationship with his players is more akin to father-son than coach-player.
“It’s more than just about X’s and O’s in this program,” Beckman said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “It’s about building men.”
That father-son relationship is illustrated by a framed picture of a former player in Beckman’s office at Larimer Athletic Complex. The player in the photo is former Ohio State standout and current New Orleans Saints’ starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins, whom Beckman coached while he was with the Buckeyes from 2005-06. Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl ring in his first NFL season last year with the Saints and is starting to establish himself as one of the better defensive backs in the league, sent an autographed photo to Beckman to thank his former coach for what he has meant to his life and his career.
“This is what it’s all about,” Beckman said as he held the picture.
Jenkins’ fondness for Beckman and his family runs much deeper than that photograph. When Jenkins was recognized as the nation’s top defensive back and received the Jim Thorpe Award in 2008, his mother was unable to attend the award ceremony with him. In her place, Jenkins asked Beckman’s wife, Kim, to accompany him.
“She was in tears,” Beckman said.
For a former standout college player at one of the best football programs in the country who is likely on his way to a Pro Bowl to show that gesture of respect and appreciation for Beckman and his family, then it’s easy to understand how quickly Beckman has made the connection with his current players. His passion and energy for the game has injected life back into the Toledo program as his core values of family, competition, community and accountability have translated into success out on the gridiron. After a 5-7 (3-5 Mid-American Conference) campaign in his first season in 2009, Beckman led the Rockets to an 8-5 (7-1 MAC) finish this year and their first bowl appearance since 2005.
Beckman said that the players’ willingness to change was one of the more impressive aspects about the Toledo football program this season.
“They’re all humble,” Beckman said. “We don’t have to worry about egos in this program because none of us have them, from [the] coaching staff down. Their willingness to do what we ask them to do, it’s hard. They’ve fulfilled our expectations of this plan that we’ve set in place.”
Part of that plan was dubbed “Operation Ford Field” by Beckman and his staff, a slogan featured on the players’ wristbands representing the team’s goal to end up in the MAC Championship Game Dec. 3. While a 65-30 loss at Northern Illinois Nov. 9 prevented that from happening, the Rockets still made it to Ford Field —albeit 23 days later — with an invite to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Dec. 26. Even though Toledo fell short in a 34-32 loss to Florida International that night, this year’s team more than exceeded its preseason expectations of a fourth-place finish in the MAC West Division by the MAC News Media Association.
The Rockets 7-1 conference record tied for the best since the 2004 season and the second-best in program history. The only other Toledo team to finish better was the 7-0-1 squad in 1995. Considering that this year’s group only had 13 seniors, the young Rockets have built the foundation for what’s to come.
“We’re going to battle back from this,” Beckman said after the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. “When we get back on Jan. 10, they’re going to be ready to talk about it and ready to get to work for next football season.”