GREENVILLE — Two weeks away from embarking on the grandest, most lucrative part of his life’s journey, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley seemed content Thursday night to celebrate another award among familiar faces.
There was his position coach, Marion Hobby, introducing Beasley as the 2014 South Carolina Hall of Fame Collegiate Player of the Year, an honor won the year before by Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Also in a Hyatt Regency ballroom in downtown Greenville were defensive backs coach Mike Reed and recruiting director Thad Turnipseed. Former Cemson defensive end Nick Eason emceed, former NFL head coaches Art Shell and Dan Reeves gave speeches, and local native/comedian Orlando Jones entertained nearby.
And Beasley had a front-row seat, enjoying his final days as a kid in a candy shop before he’s a man with a million-dollar contract.
“I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Beasley said. “I’m definitely happy about being here, able to receive this award. I think my hard work has paid off.”
It’s been a long road for Beasley, who spent five years at Clemson — one as a redshirt, one switching positions, one as a backup and two as an All-American performer. After Clemson won the 2014 Orange Bowl, Beasley agitated for pretty much all of the two weeks allotted to him settling on his decision to stay or go — and he stayed, foregoing the 2014 NFL Draft and opting to return for his senior year.
Beasley’s stress returned to an apex two weeks after announcing his return. On Feb. 1, 2014, Beasley’s oldest half-brother Tyrone Barrett, 40, died in a car accident near their hometown of Adairsville, Ga.
“We were real close. It was kind of a devastating time in my life because I had big plans for my brother,” said Beasley, who was 21 at the time. “But I think it brought our family closer together. God works in different ways.”
Hobby mentioned Barrett’s loss as a motivator for Beasley, who had fought off family advances to start earning NFL paychecks in favor of completing his coursework at Clemson and graduating in August 2014.
“I think it was just a hard time for him at that age,” Hobby said. “All the things were wearing down on him, with the draft, his brother, and all that was going on in his mind. But he’s so strong in his faith.”
Beasley said he was shooting hoops with friends when the bad news was relayed to him.
“It was very shocking. It came out of nowhere,” Beasley said. “It was a sad couple of weeks.”
Beasley went on to set Clemson’s all-time sack record, with 33, and with a notably strong NFL Combine performance has vaulted himself into the consensus top 15 draft prospects. Next week, he visits Washington and the New York Jets, who respectively own the fifth and sixth picks in the first round April 30.
There have been projections sending him as high as third overall to Jacksonville, and few having him drop below New Orleans at No. 13.
“My ultimate goal is to get drafted as high as I can,” Beasley said. “I think I presented myself well at the Combine to put myself in a good position.”
Beasley will attend the draft, which is being held in Chicago for the first time in 51 years. It’ll be his first time in the Windy City, and he’ll be accompanied by a Clemson contingent including head coach Dabo Swinney.
“I told him I’ve been to the draft twice and I’m 2-for-2 — two top-10 guys, don’t screw it up. Pressure’s on him,” Swinney said, referring to C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins. “He won’t have to wait too long. His name will get called pretty early and it’s going to be a great moment to just be a part of it, especially for him. He deserves all of the credit because he’s put the work in.”