Tim Beckman is working to transform Illinois football into championship-level teams. Besides all the coaching and recruiting, Beckman has also worked to create an environment conducive to winning and building boys into men.
"It's been a good six months. I think we're making strides to get better and better, but there's still a little ways to go."
Beckman has served as a tremendous ambassador for the program, meeting alumni, participating in a Caravan that held get-togethers all over the state of Illinois and working with more than 1000 prospects at summer camps.
Throughout this time, he has continued to show a relaxed, friendly countenance that is appealing to those he meets. One might think the pressures to win at a high level in an extremely tough conference would show in his behavior, but that has not been the case up to now.
"I've been around this thing for 47 years. I've been around winning seasons and losing seasons. Luckily, I've been around a lot more winning seasons than losing seasons. This business is about people and building relationships. As long as we can continue to build those things, we're going to be okay and be successful."
More than one fan has commented on meeting him that he seems to remember everyone he meets, even recalling specific details of a previous encounter. Does he have a photographic memory?
"No. Sometimes I challenge myself to continue to learn names as I get more involved with the program. But this is a special place, as I've said before. There are more alumni here than any place in the country, with all three schools that we have here. It's a great institution, and there are a lot of great people who are involved in this institution."
Humility aside, one must want to remember those he meets. Beckman is a people person, and he wants to develop well-rounded men who give back to their communities as well as perform on the field and classroom. He is practicing what he preaches.
"It's very important. I think there's a lot more to this game than just playing between the stripes. This game, and this life as a football player is about developing young men into men. We have responsibilities to our communities throughout our lives."
He cares about all football players, not just his own players. In all his camps this summer, his conclusions included a reminder to his participants to thank the adults who brought them. He empathizes with them and those who provide for their support.
"There's no question. It wasn't that long ago I was playing this game myself. I wasn't playing as well as a lot of guys do, but that's more about life. We're blessed to play this game, blessed to coach this game. These young men need to understand it's a privilege and not a right to play the game of football."
He cares enough to invite coaches from other Illinois and Midwest programs to help put campers through their paces. It helps the coaches find out about prospects who might fit their needs, and it helps the players find a right fit for their abilities. Not all college coaches are as considerate or as confident of their own skills as the Illini head man.
"I was a MAC coach. It's something I learned from Jim Tressel. We did it with Jim Tressel, and we did it with Mike Gundy. So I've been able to learn from a lot of great people."
"This game is about providing for the student-athlete. It gives them an opportunity for a Division-III team or a Division-I team or a Mid-American team to come out and coach and evaluate."
Beckman emphasizes family with his players. Everyone on the staff, from the coaches to all staff members and players, is a part of the whole and deserves to be treated equally and fairly.
That starts in his own home, his wife and family playing host to the team on multiple occasions. He talked in his introductory remarks upon being named head coach about how his wife fixes lasagna for his players. He clarified what she does and how she does it.
"It's never for 105 players. When they come over as a team, we grill out. The coaching staff cooks for them, not just my wife. The most she'll be cooking lasagna for is 18.
"It takes a couple days to make sure they're prepared, but she loves it. She loves being a mother and a sister, I guess you'd say. It gives those players an opportunity to get away from college life for an hour and be a son again."
Beckman also places heavy importance on his assistants being personable and working toward the same goals.
"They've been around us. They know how I want to treat people and how I want our players treated. I'm very blessed with the staff that I have, and I'm very blessed to be the 23rd head football coach at Illinois."
In part two of this five-part interview, Beckman talks about recruiting.