Beckwith to play for Pruitt at Tenn.

Chase Glover Sports Editor [email protected]

Florence high school star athlete, Dee Beckwith, commits to the Jeremy Pruitt led Tennesse Volunteers from Knoxville, Tenn. Beckwith, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound player signed with the team on National Signing Day, Feb. 5.

Beckwith waited until the last day to make his decision which came down to Florida and Tennessee. His brother, Camryn Beckwith, who plays running back at Brooks high school, committed to Tennessee on a Preferred Walk-On. 

“It has been based on building relationships with them [college coaches],” said D. Beckwith. “The process has been slow for me to decide on where to go, I have been waiting on this until the last minute. I am thankful that I did that.”

He had offers from teams such as Florida, Tennessee, Kansas, Florida State, Oregon and more. Overall, Beckwith garners 17 scholarships from across the country from all kinds of divisions in the FBS.

“My first offer came from Tennessee last January,” said D. Beckwith. “It was surprising, my first offer came from an SEC school; one of the top SEC schools at that. Ever since then they were hard on me, hard on recruiting me, I figured I could go a long way with them.”

Beckwith, made his decision at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday morning in the Florence high school gymnasium. After students, faculty and media crowded into the room for the anticipated decision, he made his announcement.

He gave a speech, thanking the people who have helped him in his journey to this point, his coaches and more people. Then, standing up, contemplates between the Florida and Tennessee visor before picking up the Florida cap. Instead of putting it on, he tosses it down, and rips open his shirt, to reveal a Tennessee ‘T’ logo, showing where he will play college ball. 

“He had it well kept,” said head coach Will Hester. “He didn’t tell anyone [his decision], but he liked how they were going to use him. They compared him to Taysom Hill and his kind of talents. I am excited to see what he can do at this next level.” 

Hester has many athletes that leave the school and move onto college and professional sports. Players such as Erroll Thompson Jr. from Mississippi State and Van Jefferson from Florida.

“Athletically, he is probably at the very top of the list,” said Hester. “He is a phenomenal leader, he has grown into that. In junior year, he didn’t care for that part much, but as a senior this year he did a phenomenal job in leading his teams in both basketball and football.”

Beckwith is a two-sport athlete, a football and basketball phenom for the Falcon teams. His first love came from basketball, but going into his junior year of high school he found his athleticism could translate to football. 

“He has only been playing football for two years in high school,” said Hester. “His best football is still ahead of him. I can’t wait to see where football takes him, it’s kind of limitless for him.”

Beckwith lined up across the board on offense at positions such as quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Having a 6-foot-5 frame helped him naturally move throughout the offense and adapt to any position naturally. 

Tennessee saw his ability to switch from quarterback and move out to wide receiver and catch balls over defenders for scores, bringing heavy attention to the young man. 

“I actually enjoy playing quarterback the most,” said D. Beckwith. “Everything starts with me, I get to be a bigger leader on the field, I also get to set the tone for everyone around me.”

Jeremy Pruitt was the first coach to offer Beckwith after his first season with the Falcons. The scholarship was extended on Jan. 15, 2019, giving Beckwith his notability to his own athleticism. After a week had passed, Beckwith garners three more offers from UAB, Nebraska and another SEC school, South Carolina. 

As his time playing football grew, his star-status followed closely behind. By the time his senior year came to be, Beckwith became nationally known as a three-star athlete. Meaning that he was one of the best players in the country.

He rose to be the 17 best player in the state of Alabama, while becoming the 18 best ATH nationwide. He also was ranked 392 overall in the nation, many sites had him listed as four-star player to end his high school career.

“It means a lot to me,” said Beckwith. “That is really just a label, when you get to the college level, then everyone will be a three-star or a four-star, right now that’s a cool thing. When I get to the college level, that will not make a difference anymore.”

Along with Pruitt, offensive line coach Will Friend and wide receivers coach Tee Martin helped bring in the coveted prospect. Beckwith, playing primarily the quarterback position in high school, will move out to wide receiver in the Volunteer offense.

“I do wide receiver second best”, said D. Beckwith. “I think I can adapt best to the receiver position on the college level.”

Many factors go into choosing the college of an athlete’s choice. The distance, relationships, community, fan base, strength of conference and more can impact that decision. 

“I looked at the distance to see if it was convenient for my family,” said D. Beckwith. “I looked at how many people I knew outside of football. Tennessee was one of those places where I knew people outside of football, I knew other people and had friends there already.”

As an 18 year-old star, many coaches begin to try and persuade a player to how their school is the best. Noting that they may be a championship-caliber team or that their fan base is superior to others around the country. Many players need guidance to help them along the grueling process of recruitment.

“I looked to my cousins, some of my coaches that have been through this,” said D. Beckwith. “My cousin actually plays college football at UAB, so he gave me some tips on what he did and what he went through.”

Beckwith made several visits to colleges, official and unofficial. He also attended several junior day camps around the country for different teams. He visited Tennessee and Florida many times, along with the coaches coming to Florence to visit the athlete at games or in-home.However, one outlier was when Beckwith visited Ole Miss on an unofficial visit on Nov. 16. 

“Ole Miss and Freddie Roach actually,” said D. Beckwith. “We were really close and we were family, he was from here. He was a really cool dude to talk with and it was awesome having him come here to talk to me.”

A little south of Florence high school, another Beckwith made his college intentions known at Brooks high school. The 5-foot-9 running back, Camryn Beckwith, also accepted his PWO from Pruitt on Early Signing Day. In doing so, Pruitt and staff were hoping to also catch the eye of his brother to potentially sign as well to unite them once again.

“He [C. Beckwith] had an impact,” said D. Beckwith. “Even though we don’t go to the same high school, we are still pretty close. We usually hang out everyday, we always have wanted to play together and we haven’t gotten the chance since ninth grade. One of our main goals was to end up playing together again and once again it’ll be convenient for our families that we will be together.”

C. Beckwith, seemed like an attempt to lure D. Beckwith away from Florida. This was not the case, the running back led the 4A Lions to a 4-2 region record and into the playoffs for his senior season. After the commitment of his brother, these two will join forces at the next level for the first since their freshman year of high school.

“It feels great,” said C. Beckwith. “I feel like since we are so close and that he will be right by my side through college, I feel like everything will go so much better. It means a whole lot, when we are together we can see what each other is doing and how each other’s lives are going.”

After only two years of playing football on the high school level, Beckwith will transform into the next level to compete in one of the highest conferences in football. Hester and his staff had to take a raw basketball athlete and make it work on a football field. 

“He [Hester} pushed me,” said D. Beckwith. “Him and my position coaches, they pushed me to be the best athlete on the field and they taught me how to be a leader. It really just helped me with the recruitment process and to take everything slow, he told me to follow my heart.”

Only around 6.9 percent of high school football athletes make it to the college level to play the sport they love. After that, only an average of 1.6 percent of players make it to the professional aspect of the sport.

“If I keep my head on straight and I do more than I have to I can be there [NFL Draft],” said D. Beckwith. “I’m the top [amongst Hester’s former players] just due to my natural ability and when I get to college they are going to add so much more to me. I really do think I have the potential to be a first round draft pick.”

The size and talent of Beckwith has gotten him to the point of playing college ball. Many athletes garner attention due to their God-given abilities and size and thousands of kids growing up idolize these players for what they can do on and off the field. D. Beckwith’s size and play reflects that of many nationally talented players in college and the NFL.

“I always looked up to Cam Newton,” said D. Beckwith. “I grew up knowing that I would be the same height and the same body type as him. I played the same position, so as a kid I always looked up to him. Now I look towards Lamar Jackson, due to his mobility and I feel like I can be like them when I grow up.”

Beckwith and his brother will get the chance to show their talents on Apr. 18 in the Orange and White spring game for the Volunteers. After that they will look forward to the Charlotte 49ers at home on Sep. 5 to officially open the 2020 football season in Knoxville.