John Beck is not your typical college senior.
He spent two and a half years on a religious mission in Portugal, which means he's now 25 years old.
Upon his arrival home, he was immediately thrown on the gridiron as the starting quarterback for the BYU Cougers, even after his long absence from the playing field.
That '03 season was predictably a bit rocky, but he still managed a 100+ QB rating after being away from football for over two years. During his sophomore year, he threw for 2563 yards, 15 TDs, and only 8 INTs. As a junior, Beck threw for 3709 yards, 27 TDs and 13 INTs all while completing over 64% of his passes. Beck seemed to save the best for last; He threw for 3885 and 32 TDs at a 69.3% completion rate, only 8 INTs and was only sacked 15 times. Oh, did I mention he was on crutches for six weeks of the season?
That's right. For the first six weeks of the season, when John Beck wasn't on the football field, his right foot was in a boot and he was on crutches. "I could barely move in those games," Beck said in a recent interview with PantherInsider.com. Due to this lack of mobility, questions arose about his athleticism, along with his arm strength. Beck saw the combine as his opportunity to prove the doubters wrong, and that's exactly what he did. He ran the second fastest 40 yard dash among QBs at 4.77, behind only Boisie State's Jared Zabransky while matching Zabransky's effort at the 10 yard split. Beck also ran the second fastest short shuttle and had the third fastest three cone drill. Athleticism issues? Not hardly. Jared Zabransky was the only QB to best Beck in the speed and agility drills and he is a candidate to potentially change positions at the NFL level.
With one question mark answered, that left the biggest knock on Beck – arm strength. After watching some film on him, this writer wonders where those questions arose in the first place. There are numerous occasions where Beck gets the ball 40+ yards down the field with what is a seeming flick of the wrist. Film also shows good escapability and a willingness to deliver a throw knowing a big hit is coming. He further answered arm strength questions by recording the second highest ball speed at the combine with a 61.1 mph throw and then throwing the ball very well at his Pro Day. Beck says Brett Favre is a big inspiration for him and while he doesn't have the Howitzer for an arm that Favre possesses, you can certainly see the similarities in toughness, leadership, and creativity. For examples of all three, watch the final play of the Utah vs. BYU game as Beck scrambles to buy time, directs his receivers, and crosses the field twice just to deliver a cross field throw to a wide open receiver in the endzone as he receives a crushing blow. Nobody coaches that!
The only other question mark lingering about Beck is his aforementioned age. However, according to Beck "not a single team has asked me about my age." So, he brought it up in combine interviews and was told "Don't worry, we value a QB with experience and maturity." Panther fans have experience with an older QB coming out in the draft with the recently released Chris Weinke, who was a 26 year old rookie. However, their ages upon entering the NFL are where similarities end between the two. Weinke was a prototypical pocket passer with a big arm while Beck brings a very different skill set.
Speaking of skill sets, the NFL QB whom Beck feels he compares is the Panthers' own Jake Delhomme. The two are of similar stature and are both gutsy players. Beck says, "I think Jake Delhomme is awesome and I think I compare well to him both as a player and as a person. I would love to watch someone like him and learn behind him." After being forced into action early in his collegiate career, Beck says he would actually prefer to sit and learn for a year or two at the NFL level. This doesn't mean he lacks competitive desire as he clarifies, "I'm a competitive guy and I'm going to compete as if I'm starting, but I think the ideal situation is to sit and learn for a year or two and then have it turned over to me."
This may be the best thing for Beck. The BYU system in which he played his collegiate football featured a lot of the shotgun formation, and most NFL systems use the shotgun as a situational formation. However, this does not concern Beck and he doesn't feel like it will present any significant hurdle as he "had never taken a snap from the shotgun in high school and [he] had to adapt to the shotgun in college as [he] was expected to be good from the shotgun and from under center." Beck showed his versatility when he performed well from under center in limited action in the East-West Shrine game, including a TD pass. Due to his experience in the BYU offense and his comfort with reading a defense and making quick decisions, he feels as if he would fit best in a West Coast offense, but at the same time, he feels he has the versatility and ability to fit into any offensive system.
When asked about his private workout with the Panthers,(as first reported by PantherInsider.com HERE), Beck responded
that he felt it went well. All but a couple of his passes
were right on the mark, but I could tell he was a little
disappointed. John Beck is a perfectionist, he expects
EVERY throw to be on the mark.
"The workout went pretty good," Beck said of his recent
workout with the Panthers. "I want to be perfect on every
throw. I felt every throw was on the money at my Pro Day… I
had a few off today, but the coaches said don't worry about, but I told him I
expect to be perfect on every throw. I felt I should've
performed better. I'm a harder critic on myself than those
around me, but I feel confident I had a good workout and did the
things McCoy wanted to see."
After being critical of himself,
Beck was careful to go back and put a positive spin on a good, but not great
workout. He didn't want to disappoint the fans.
He wants Carolina fans to love him. He'd love to be
a Panther, as he's visited the area before and his wife's brother lives in
Chapel Hill; she is absolutely in love with the area.
From talking to his agent, Beck expects to be taken somewhere in the second or third round and expects to be in contention to be the third QB selected overall. He understands that it is all about the individual teams and how they interpret the prospects. He says, "Hopefully Carolina will choose to be the team that decides to take the third QB chosen, and hopefully that guy will be me." Beck is a very interesting prospect that displays the physical skills and maturity necessary to become a starting QB in the NFL. He is willing to sit and learn for a year or two and, in fact, would prefer to do this. The Panthers have a huge hole at the backup QB position and Jake Delhomme is 32 years old. It is impossible to know how much longer Jake will be the starter in Carolina, but it's safe to say that he will more-than-likely be the guy for another two to three years. A new offensive coordinator is coming in and may want to take a guy to groom to be "his guy", and then there is always the prospect of an injury. In either case, the Panthers need a solution at the backup QB position and if that guy can possibly be the solution to take over as the starter a few years down the road, that's just icing on the cake. If Beck is still there in the third round, the Panthers very well could pull the trigger.