EAGAN, Minn. – Chad Beebe was given a shot, and he’s making the most of it.
The wide receiver spoke to media members following the Vikings Tuesday afternoon practice, during which Beebe once again took reps with the second-team offense.
It’s been less than four months since Beebe attended Vikings rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He beat the odds then by earning a spot on the 90-man roster, and he’s hoping to do so again by landing a spot on Minnesota’s final 53.
But while there’s been some buzz around the son of former Bills, Panthers and Packers receiver Don Beebe, he really isn’t listening to it.
Beebe was asked by a reporter if he’s had a mental shift from “happy to be here” to actually vying for a spot but shrugged off the question with a smile.
“You know, I still think I’m kind of naïve, and I think that’s a good thing,” Beebe said. “You know, I’m just out here trying to have fun, first and foremost. It’s what I’m passionate about, it’s what I love to do, and the moment you start putting pressure on yourself is the moment you get caught into all the wrong things. So at the end of the day, you just focus on what you can do.”
Beebe has been, in a sense, fighting an uphill battle for a while now. He aspired for big things at the college level but “wasn’t able to put up those numbers he wanted,” self-identifying as a “no-name” compared to so many other athletes seeking to make an NFL squad.
An alum of Northern Illinois University, Beebe played four seasons with the Huskies over a five-season span, during which he totaled 64 receptions for 930 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned 48 punts and 12 kickoffs for 329 and 297 yards, respectively. He redshirted in 2016 due to an offseason injury, and he also suffered a broken arm in the 2014 MAC Championship game.
When Beebe missed practices in Minnesota with an injury, he could have been discouraged but instead felt prepared for the situation.
“Everything I went through in college I think has truly prepared me for this opportunity and going through that injury,” Beebe said. “I always go back to my faith – it’s a huge part of who I am, and that’s what I lean on.
“I knew for a fact that it was all going to be OK,” Beebe added. “It’s out of my control, I couldn’t control that situation, so I just had to get better as soon as possible.”
Beebe was in full health for the Vikings first two preseason games, scoring his first NFL touchdown against the Broncos and this past Saturday snagging a 14-yard catch.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer praised Beebe’s “great quickness” in and out of cuts and highlighted his toughness and ability to catch the ball in a crowd.
“I think his confidence has really grown,” Zimmer said. “He’s been around pro football, and he’s never been, the bright lights have never been too big for him, I don’t think. But he’s probably gained confidence when he jumps up against Xavier [Rhodes] and Terence [Newman] and those guys.”
Beebe, who was born five months after the Bills fell in Super Bowl XXVIII, said he’s grateful to have his father as a resource during this journey. The father and son talk every day; Chad verbally explains various situations that came up in practice that day and receives feedback from the NFL veteran.
“It’s been a blessing,” Beebe said. “He played nine years, so he understands, for sure.”
Beebe said the biggest on-field advice he’s gotten from his father isn’t necessarily unique from how coaches across the league would instruct their players.
“Just coming off the ball full-speed every single time. Make it look like you’re going deep every single time, and threaten the DB,” Beebe explained. “Because if you’re coming off slow, they’re going to know something’s coming. So just making it look like a 40-yard dash every single time. So I’ve tried to apply that to my game. And he always gives me examples of, like, [former Bills Pro Bowler] Andre Reed, guys who would do that really, really well.”
Working hard, spending time in the playbook and learning from his father, coaches and teammates is starting to pay off for Beebe. Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo was asked during his morning media session if he’s been surprised by Beebe, and he considered thoughtfully before responding.
“I wouldn’t say he’s surprised me because the traits were always there – the quickness, the short area quickness,” DeFilippo said. “The thing he’s gotten a lot better at is understanding leverage on defenders. For a guy that’s not very big, he really understands how to lean and lift on defenders.
“So, I think from when he stepped foot in this building this spring to now, I would put him right up there with anybody in terms of most-improved,” DeFilippo continued. “I think that’s a credit to him, and [wide receivers coach] Darrell Hazell does a good job with those guys, and he’s an exciting guy to watch.”
Over the next two weeks, Beebe plans to maintain the same approach he carried at the beginning of rookie minicamp: come to practice every day and give it his all.
“I don’t want to live with any regret,” Beebe said. “That’s for sure.”
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, Beebe certainly doesn’t align with the prototypical NFL receiver. But he’s not concerned about prototypes.
“Yep, [I’m not] the biggest, not the fastest, definitely not the strongest,” Beebe quipped. “But it’s just my will to win. I’m gritty, passionate, and I love the game.”