Battle tested Redhawk

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - As a 25-year-old sophomore, Brandon Beck is the Redhawks' resident old guy.

"His nickname's grandpa," said Levi Terrell, Southeast Senior Running Back.

"They call him grandpa? Ha-ha," replied Southeast Running Backs Coach Chris Norris.

"That's pretty bad at 25, to get that nickname," said Brandon's mom, Natalie Dowdy.

"I'll probably get one a practice, one a week, somebody will say something," said Southeast Fullback Brandon Beck.

Beck has gotten used to the age jokes. But none of his teammates mock the path Beck's taken to get on a college football field.

"I can't really say there's anybody on this team I look up to more," said Terrell.

As an all-region linebacker at Jackson high school, Beck signed to play at Lindenwood University.

Instead, he decided to forgo football and enlist in the military.

"It was 2005, 2006, middle of the Iraq war, and I really just felt the need to go and do my part," said Beck.

Beck served four years in the army, including a 15 month tour in Iraq.

"When you get over there and you have your first incident of receiving contact, and stuff like that, you kind of wise up pretty fast," said Beck.

But just before finishing his tour, Beck began a battle he never expected.

"A bunch of the guys I was in the unit with, they mentioned that I had some swellings in my neck and they were like man you even got huge neck muscles, and I really didn't even know what it was," said Beck. "I didn't even know what it was."

What it was, turned out to be Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, cancer.

"April 15, 2009 is when I got the phone call," said Beck's mom, Natalie. "I was pretty devastated, cried a lot."

"I was in the best shape of my life, and something like that pops out of nowhere?" said Beck.

Beck flew to Walter Reed National Military medical center in Washington D.C., before continuing treatment closer to home in St. Louis.

After five months of chemotherapy, Beck's cancer went into remission.

"He did really well through treatments, of course he did lose his hair," said Beck's mom, Natalie. "I think for his age and his health, being in such good shape as he was, that helped a lot."

"You are really more appreciative of the little things," said Beck. "I kind of saw football and college as a blessing, and it was something I wanted to take advantage of."

Beck finished his enlistment, and in January, 2011, enrolled at Southeast to pursue a dream left behind.

"After everything he's been through, it's awesome," said Dowdy.

He walked on to the football team, learned a new position, fullback, and scored his first career touchdown this season, inspiring his coaches and teammates along the way.

"He just goes about doing his job, and while everyone else might be complaining about the weather, the heat or the long hours, just know what he's been through, you really can't complain too loud when you're near him," said Coach Norris.

"Seeing what he's been through really gives us that feeling that we can get through anything, we can beat anything," said Terrell.

It's a lesson anyone's grandpa would be proud to pass on.

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