Back To School

Aaron Beasley will forever be remembered as one of the best defensive players in Mountaineer history. In the next month or so, he'll be known as something else: a WVU alum.

Beasley starred in the Mountaineer defensive backfield from 1992-95, and finished his career near the top of the school record book in several categories. In 1994, he led the nation in interceptions with 10.

Following his successful career in Morgantown, Beasley went on to a long and successful tenure in the National Football League. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and would stay with the Jags until the end of the 2001 season. He followed up his stint in Jacksonville with a two-year run in New York playing for the Jets. In 2004, his final season, Beasley led a young Atlanta Falcons secondary that included future Pro Bowl cornerback D'Angelo Hall.

Despite all of his success on the football field, there was still something that Beasley wanted to accomplish before he could move on. You see, having gone straight from Mountaineer Field to the NFL, Aaron had never finished the necessary work to earn his college degree. One day last summer, he knew what he had to do.

"I wasn't doing anything last summer," Beasley recalled in an exclusive interview with last week. "One day, I told my wife that I was going to call (WVU assistant athletic director Garrett) Ford and tell him that I wanted to go back to school. I called him on Thursday, got my class schedule on that Friday, and started classes the following Monday. It was a spur of the moment type of thing."

Aaron Beasley

Over the past year or so, Beasley has been back in Morgantown on a semi-regular basis taking classes just as he did more than a decade ago. While there were certainly other avenues and institutions that he could have chosen, he knew in his heart that he wanted to complete the work in Morgantown.

"I tried to do it online, but it was so close that I could come back and still go home on weekends. I always wanted to come back (to WVU).

"I've always had that commitment to come back because I promised Coach Nehlen, my grandmother, and a lot of people that I would come back and earn my degree someday," he said. "When you make a promise to people like that who have done so much for you and influenced you, then you definitely want to see that commitment through."

Needless to say, there are a plethora of differences between the last time he was in school and his current classroom experience. For starters, he doesn't have to spend any of his free time at the football stadium putting in hours upon hours of weightlifting, study hall, practices, film study, and other things that take up much of the free time for a Division I athlete.

"I definitely have a lot more free time now compared to the last time I was a student here," said Beasley. "I have a lot more time to study, and I can get better grades. I think that's something that a lot of people don't realize; as an athlete, there's a lot of pressure as far as balancing school and football."

Wearing a Callaway Golf ballcap, Beasley admits that he also has been able to spend a moment or two of free time at several area golf courses working on his game.

"Oh, I get my hacks in," he says with a chuckle.

By the end of June, he'll be completely finished with his degree program. Having already accomplished much in his professional career, he'll move on to a new phase of his life. Not surprisingly, this new phase will keep him involved in the game of football for years to come.

"I'll probably go back to Maryland, around the Baltimore area," he said. "I'm going to try to get into coaching football and training kids. I want to do stuff like teaching them how to workout, teaching them how to run and basic things like that.

"Not just that, but also pushing them towards education and teaching them to finish their education. They can look at me and see that I've been able to do it even after spending nine years in the NFL."

As for the current edition of the Mountaineers, he'll be cheering them on all the way.

"Obviously, like everybody else, I would like to see the defense play a little bit tighter," said the former All-American. "We have a great offense, though. I know they'll all work hard and have a great year. I think that 2007 is going to be big for the Mountaineers."

For this former Mountaineer, 2007 will be remembered as the year when he fulfilled the promise he made more than a decade ago.

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