From Chicago to Austin Westlake High School to Navarro Junior College and now UTSA in San Antonio. That’s road offensive lineman Stefan Beard took to division one football.
But the actual road traveled, well, that was a little more difficult than it looks on the surface. In 2013, Beard left the crime-ridden inner city of Chicago for a safer environment.
“At any given moment, someone could pull up in a car and someone gets shot,” Beard described Chicago to the Austin American Statesman in 2013. (LINK)
So Beard would find that safer place at Austin Westlake. From there, he was offered a grey shirt by Baylor. He actually originally committed to head to Waco, but things didn’t end up working out.
“From Westlake I was set to go to Baylor, then I had to take the junior college (Navarro) route,” Beard said recently following a practice. “Something happened between my guardian and Baylor so they stopped recruiting me. Then I got picked up my UTSA, now I’m here.”
Beard transferred to UTSA last December so he could get an early start and practice with the team in the spring. His addition to UTSA’s roster gives the Roadrunners added depth along the offensive line. But he said the transition to division one football from junior college wasn’t a very easy one.
“I got here in the spring,” said Beard. “And it was very challenging. But I learned, first off, that this whole program is built off of being challenged. That’s what we thrive on and try to get past. So we all get past challenges.”
Listed as 6’3” and 295lbs, Beard is a physical presence who moves well for his size. Having gone through an entire set of spring practices and offseason workouts, Beard seems like he’s now more comfortable.
“Things are going good,” Beard said of fall practices “I think I’m doing pretty good. The whole team is progressing at a rate that will put us in a position where we want to be in. It’s all for the team so we’re all progressing together. Coach (Wilson) has us going in the right direction.”
After a decent spring that included playing well in the spring game, Beard landed on UTSA’s two-deep depth chart as the backup to starting right guard Kyle McKinney.
“Right now I’m currently at right guard,” said Beard. “We’re practicing technique, that’s what we have our main points on. Our coaches are trying to get us right as far as technique and physicality. It’s just basically bringing the mental part of the game. “
One of the major storylines surrounding UTSA headed into the 2016 season is the overall play of the offensive line. After a dismal 2015 everyone is asking, has the offensive line improved?
“I don’t know about last year that much,” said Beard. “I know it’s some of the same guys. But I feel very comfortable with the guys that are playing right now. I think this offensive line could be one of the toughest offensive lines in Conference USA. Behind (OL) Coach (Ryan) Pugh, I think we can be pretty good.”
More than just the offensive line, Beard says the entire team has the potential to surprise a lot of the naysayers.
“This team can be very good,” said Beard. “We’re still trying to correct some issues but Coach (Wilson) is getting us right, especially with the mental part of the game. He’s starting to bring that and we’re starting to become a better team together.”
After taking the road less traveled to UTSA, Beard says he has no regrets.
“There were a lot of hurdles. But that’s what this team is built on, toughness and adversity,” said Beard. “I think this is probably the best position for me to be in right now, at this university.”
Beard is listed as a junior on UTSA's roster. He should compete for significant playing time in 2016.