Trai Essex knows a smart, young player when he sees one. And he sees one in rookie Kelvin Beachum.
“The kid is smart,” said Essex. “He came in right away and learned the playbook like that.”
Essex snapped his fingers for effect, but wasn’t done talking about the left tackle/guard the Steelers drafted with their fourth pick of the seventh round.
“And he’s talented,” Essex said. “He has some really long arms and has a really good set at tackle. He’s on the small side so they’ll probably move him inside. He’s probably going to have to be like me. He’s going to have to pick up the other positions real fast. I told him that’s one of the reasons I’ve been around here for eight years. He’s going to have to learn to play multiple positions and do it fast. He’s taken it to heart and is really working hard. I think he has a lot of potential.”
Essex isn’t the only one who thinks that way. Beachum impressed the Steelers with his intelligence during OTAs when he worked as the second-team left guard. The appearance of first-round pick David DeCastro this week kicked Beachum to the third team, but Beachum bounced back up to second-team left tackle yesterday upon the absence of Marcus Gilbert.
“He’s pretty bright. I think he could survive at Northwestern,” said Essex, a Northwestern man.
Beachum laughed over the vet’s dig. He gets it.
“Oh, you know, I pride myself on working hard,” Beachum said. “When I get in somewhere I do my best to get it, to find a way to get it, to understand it.
“One thing about learning is not so much being able to engulf the information, but also be able to regurgitate it, to teach it to someone else. And that’s the part I’m aiming for right now. I’m not saying I know the offense completely, but I have a good grasp of it. But I still don’t have it like I want it, where I can teach it to somebody else.”
The 6-3, 303-pound Beachum has a degree in Economics from SMU and a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies, which he earned thanks to cram sessions at the NFL combine.
To stamp the occasion, the dean of the master’s program asked Beachum to give a commencement speech to his class at the Simmons School of Education. He was one of two asked to speak.
“I talked about challenges, about testing your will,” Beachum said. “It was pretty simple, real straightforward, just some different things I had encountered while I was getting the Master’s, and then also some of the things I experienced in my childhood. I talked about my father a little bit.”
Kelvin Beachum, Sr. runs an auto shop in Kelvin Jr.’s hometown of Mexia, Texas, located about 40 miles east of Waco in the middle of the state. Kelvin Jr. spoke of his dad’s “thriving business” in spite of an education that ended in the eighth grade.
“When it’s all said and over with, I want to be an authority figure who’s also a role model for young African-Americans,” Beachum said. “Just being able to pave the way for people of all races and ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds to be successful in life, and I think I can do it as an authority figure. I’ve got the economic background to understand the money side of it, and then also the organization dynamics, which is what the Master’s was in – being able to handle big-time organizations, understanding the inner workings of how an organization works.”
As an organization, the Steelers have always intrigued Beachum.
“It’s the stability,” he said. “My grandparents on both sides have been married for over 45 years. They’re still alive. My dad and my mother have been married 24 years. I’m 23. We stayed in the same house – 205 West Walnut Street – for as long as I’ve been alive. Just stability; I love stability. I love structure.
“I’m not saying I can’t change or I can’t adapt or I can’t develop, but having that structure the Steelers have here is what I love. I mean, we go out and practice and you know what you’re going to get from coach (Mike) Tomlin. We have one goal and that’s to win the Super Bowl. I love that and I can handle that. It’s very specific and right down to the point.”