For Andrew Beck, the opportunity is there for the taking.
The undrafted rookie out of Texas is one of five tight ends battling for a spot on the roster, which has seen its entire position group turn over following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the departures of Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister.
Though the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Beck is the Patriots’ highest-paid undrafted free agent, he’s far from a sure bet to make the team. Yet if you ask Derek Warehime, who coached Beck for two years as Texas’ tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, he’ll tell you Beck isn’t the sort of kid you want to bet against.
“He was raised in a military family, so his mom and dad raised him the right way, and he’s used to meeting new people since he’s lived in [11 or 12] places throughout his life,” Warehime said. “He’s had great relationships with his teammates, great leadership skills and on top of that he’s an extremely talented kid who can produce on the football field.”
CONSTANTLY ON THE MOVE
Beck’s father, Chris Beck, is a colonel in the Army, and he had moved 11 times prior to his arrival at Texas. He was originally born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and his earliest memories come from his time living overseas in Germany.
“It’s a beautiful place, if you haven’t gotten a chance to go, I recommend it,” Beck said. “It was a very cool experience, and I could say that about everywhere I’ve lived.”
Beck moved back to the United States at age five, and not long after he picked up football while living in West Virginia.
The sport became one of the few constants in his life. Eventually, he settled near Tampa, Florida, where he drew the attention of former Texas coach Mack Brown and became one of the last recruits signed by the longtime Texas coach in 2013.
Beck’s college career was as tumultuous as it was successful. Originally signed as a linebacker, Beck switched to tight end after the Longhorns had several players go down with injuries. He experienced two coaching changes, with Charlie Strong replacing Brown just prior to his arrival before Tom Herman succeeded Strong following the 2016 season.
Then, in what would have been his senior year, Beck went down with a broken foot and missed the 2017 season. But upon his return in 2018, Beck broke out as one of the premier blocking tight ends in the nation. The two-time captain earned First Team All-Big 12 honors and totaled 28 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
‘VERSATILE AS I’VE EVER BEEN AROUND’
When asked to describe Beck, Warehime ran down a laundry list of personality traits. Well-mannered. Mature. Confident. Talks like a grown-up. Good looking — that was actually the first one he came up with — and a great leader.
But more than anything else, he said Beck could do pretty much do it all.
“Man, as versatile as I’ve ever been around. For a guy that’s put together the way he is, one of the strongest players in our program, both in the weight room and in functional strength,” Warehime said. “And he’s extremely smart, that dude was one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. He was like a coach of the field.”
Beck was best known for his run blocking, and with superior pass-catchers Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse expected to earn the top two spots on the depth chart, those talents could help Beck carve out a role as the third tight end. Just as valuable, however, could be his extensive experience on special teams.
“He was a shield guy on our punt team, and that’s effectively the QB of the punt team and the leader of that unit,” Warehime said. “He started for us on the punt team, extra point, field goal, backup on kickoff returns, he can do all that stuff.”
Bill Belichick famously prizes players who can contribute in multiple roles, so throughout the preseason Beck has tried to be a sponge. He added that having the 38-year-old Watson around has been especially beneficial.
“He’s been doing this for a minute, and it’s been wild to pick up little nuances about the game from him,” Beck said. “He’s been doing this at the professional level since I’ve been doing this period.”
Will Beck make the team? At least one undrafted free agent has made the 53-man roster out of training camp every year since 2004, so he has that going for him, and Watson having to sit out the first four games due to a PED suspension won’t hurt either. Regardless, Beck’s future will be determined by what he does in the coming months, and Warehime believes he’ll give himself the best chance he can.
“He’s always been professional in the way he works and the way he studies and prepares for each day,” Warehime said. “As long as he continues to do that, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t make those guys a great hand on the roster, both as a fullback, tight end, special teams type of player.”
Mac Cerullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.
Having grown up in a military family, Andrew Beck has a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who serve. He shares that appreciation with coach Bill Belichick, who has deep connections to the Navy and has made it a point to emphasize the importance of those sacrifices to his team.
“Coach Belichick does an amazing job and it’s really cool to see that he makes sure that everybody knows the importance and significance and what it means of every event, especially something like Memorial Day,” Beck said. “They make sure you know what’s going on, and it’s cool to see, especially coming from a military family, and then you’ve got guys like Joe [Cardona] who are currently serving, it’s cool to see the military intertwining in this program.”
As it happens, Cardona was just promoted to lieutenant in the U.S. Navy on Thursday. Beck said he and Cardona have talked about the military a lot, but when asked if there’s every any kind of Army vs. Navy smack talk, Beck laughed.
“No, I’m not in the army, I’m not allowed to do that,” he said.