‘Speedy' Beard Turning It Up

Even before tearing up his right knee last November, Kevin Beard remembers the days when fans, and even some teammates, mocked his inability to get past defensive backs and tendency to drop some balls along the way. And Beard obviously hasn't forgotten.

"That's why the fans are the fans and we are the players," says Beard, one of two senior receivers on the University of Miami football team. "They're not going to like you if you do something bad in a game, but there going to get behind you if you do something good in a game."

"I remember when people used to say, oh, Kevin Beard- that's the slow guy who drops balls. The guys would tease me- there comes the slow dude, you know. Now all of a sudden everybody seems to be a Kevin Beard fan."

It would be difficult not to be- especially after the performance Beard is coming off of.

Beard, who missed the team's last three games in 2002 and all of spring practice in April after having knee surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament, opened the eyes of old supporters and added some new ones with a game-high 164 receiving yards and seven receptions, including a critical third quarter touchdown catch and several others, to aid Miami in its 38-33 come-from-behind victory over the Florida Gators last Saturday night in the Orange Bowl.

"I recognized Kevin after the Louisiana Tech game (the Hurricanes season opener) although he caught no passes," said UM coach Larry Coker. "He had zero against Louisiana Tech but he played as a team member- blocking, helping other guys get open, doing other things to help our football team."

"But I told him earlier in the week – in preparation for Florida- how impressive he looked in practice. I told him, Kevin you better be ready this week."

The 6-2, 173-pound flanker responded against the Gators with a single-game career high in receptions as a Hurricane – eclipsing his previous high of six against Temple last season- while emerging as perhaps the prime target besides tight end Kellen Winslow that the team had been searching for all summer.

After catching just two passes for 21 yards in the first half, Beard was right in the middle of the Hurricanes' rally from a 33-10 deficit that started with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter and UM quarterback Brock Berlin taking the field to a chorus of boos. Beard caught an 11-yard reception on a first down-and-10 play from the Hurricanes' 27-yard-line before making a 13-yard grab on a third-down play from the Florida 39. On the next play he caught a 26-yard touchdown pass to narrow the Gators lead to 33-16 before a two-point conversion attempt by the Hurricanes.

Beard followed that up with a 62-yard reception as he streaked down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds at the Florida one-yard-line. Running back Frank Gore scored on a one-yard run on the next play to bring UM within 33-25 with: 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Beard was also in on the Hurricanes game-winning drive with a 25-yard reception on a second-and-10 play from deep in Miami's territory. The drive ended on a Gore 12-yard TD run that gave the Hurricanes the lead.

UM red-shirt freshman receiver Ryan Moore was not only impressed with Beard's display against Florida, but he has also been the beneficiary of the receiver's antics on the field. Moore says Beard is just like having another coach on the field.

"He's always out there telling us what to do and where to go," says Moore. "It's a real plus for all the young guys to have Kevin back out there. He also opens things up for the rest of us."

Coker was shocked – and at the same time enthused – with the breakaway speed Beard showed down the stretch against Florida.

"I asked Kevin if he had his speed back," said Coker. "But I thought we had an imposter out there."

Beard, a second-team All-State member as a senior at Plantation High in Broward County after catching 62 passes for1,393 yards and a state-record 25 touchdowns, has never really lived up to the potential he arrived at UM in 1999. But in a way Beard has had to wait his turn behind other receivers the last several years, including 2003 Houston Texans' first-overall selection Andre Johnson.

After being red-shirted in 1999, Beard played sparingly as a freshman in 2000 before making 25 receptions for 409 yards in 2001. Beard was on pace for career highs in both receptions and yards last season before going down late in the third quarter in a game against Pittsburgh.

"When I had knee surgery all of the guys encouraged me and some of the ones that had had surgery told me I was going to come back faster and help my team," said Beard, who entered this season with 48 receptions, 671 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons at Miami. "Before the injury I was like a 4.6, maybe 4.7 (in the 40-yard-dash) but now my nickname is ‘speedy'. I guess I showed these guys a little speed."

With the departure of Johnson and a handful of injuries at the receivers' position during the fall, the Hurricanes opened the season not knowing what player would step up to give Berlin a valuable option But after Saturday night's breakout party Beard has likely taken the required steps to be that guy.

"I didn't do anything spectacular (against Florida)," says Beard. "I just did what I was recruited to do."

Canes Time Top Stories