After an injury during his junior season, most of the colleges that were hot on the tail of a running back who had led the area with 1,360 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore cooled off a little.
After another injury in the third game of his senior season, the mail being delivered to the Dalton Catamounts football office slacked off to a mere trickle.
But for Tre Beck, the dream of playing college football was still alive, even if it had dwindled down to merely a smoldering ember in the fireplace this past Christmas. Unable to get the qualifying ACT scores for Division I college admissions in spring 2012 — the end of his senior year — Beck instead eventually enrolled at Georgia Northwestern Technical College this past fall.
However, after his first semester, even the prospects of continuing that education weren’t looking good for Beck, who was working on a road construction crew and wasn’t sure if he would return to school. It wasn’t exactly shaping up to be a holly, jolly Christmas, and no matter how fast he could turn the corner on a toss sweep, he couldn’t outrun reality.
But Christmas is a season of miracles. And after so much adversity had been thrown in the path of Beck, who was a standout on the football field, basketball court and track for the Cats, a blessing came his way.
“It was an amazing Christmas gift,” Beck said. “I had given up on ever playing football again.”
On Christmas Day, Dalton coach Matt Land called Beck and told him he had been in contact with North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college in Wahpeton, N.D. — near the Minnesota state line — that competes in the Midwest Football Conference. The Wildcats were offering a scholarship for Beck to continue his playing days, and that smoldering ember roared into a fire.
On Tuesday at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton, friends and family gathered to send Beck off to where he will have to dress a lot warmer.
“My freshman and sophomore year of high school, I was getting a lot of interest from scouts,” said Beck, who will leave for North Dakota today. “But after I got hurt my junior year, that took away all of the big names, and getting hurt again in my senior year made it even harder. It was tough, and there were times when I didn’t know if I would ever get to play football again.”
Beck gets another shot after Land was contacted by NDSC coach Chuck Parsons. While Parsons wasn’t exactly looking for Beck, he said his staff asked Land if there were any players who had “fallen through the cracks.” When they got tape of Beck on the field, Parsons was interested.
When healthy, Beck had the potential to turn in big stats for the Cats on any given night. As a sophomore, he rushed for 294 yards on 19 carries in a win over Rome, and he topped that with 315 yards on 18 carries while leading Dalton past Ringgold in 2010. In his senior season, he didn’t return until the final regular-season game of the year, but with a state berth on the line, he ripped off an 84-yard scoring run as the Cats beat Cartersville to earn a spot in the Class 3A state playoffs.
“He is a phenomenal athlete and he jumped off the field when we watched him on film,” Parsons said. “What we do offensively, he was a perfect fit. We are excited about getting the opportunity with him. If he is everything he was in high school a year removed, he will see plenty of playing time and that will be the exposure to get him to another level.”
The Wildcats run a spread offense, and Beck — who played as the tailback in the I formation at Dalton — will be used in a slot receiver capacity. The Wildcats were 3-6 this past season and will playing a full 11-game regular season next year.
“There are always going to be quality kids who fall through, whether it is injury or qualifying late,” Parsons said. “It is something we always look for. There can be some big rewards for the athlete and the program. We know there are guys out there that can fill a need out for us. When you are looking for a kid falling through the cracks, his is the ideal situation for us. He is a good young man and it pays off to find those young kids and give them an opportunity.”
Land was just hoping someone would give Beck that chance.
“As a coach, I learned a long time ago to never give up on a player,” Land said. “This story is more about perseverance. That talent is the key to the other opportunities in his life right now.”
Beck plans to take advantage.
“I feel so blessed,” Beck said. “I can’t wait to get up there and show them they made a good decision. I plan on working as hard as I can to show them I deserve to be there.”