Nov. 17, 2010
Chase Beeler admitted that for about 30 seconds after he elected to transfer from Oklahoma to Stanford four years ago, he considered the possibility that he might not play football again.
He thought that if he left Oklahoma to pursue his academic studies on The Farm, there was a chance that football might not be part of his future.
In other words, he was coming to Stanford whether football was part of the deal or not.
"Luckily, the way things worked out, that was never a problem," Beeler said. "For me, Stanford and football were a package."
Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh laughs. He never considered that Beeler wouldn't play, "We had a scholarship for him. He was coming to play football."
When Beeler, an Oklahoma native, arrived at Stanford for the visit that preceded his transfer, he understood that it was a leap of faith.
Things weren't going so well for the Cardinal at the time. It was coach Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach and Stanford was coming off a 1-11 season.
Beeler's visit took place during training camp. It didn't take long to figure out that Stanford was a perfect fit.
"It took me less than 24 hours to see what might not have been apparent to everyone else at the time, that good things were happening here," Beeler said. "I was really stunned by the fact that two weeks into training camp people were acting like it was the first day of camp. Everyone was thrilled to be playing football. And at a lot of institutions, that is not always the case."
Beeler's instincts about the Stanford program proved correct, though to be fair, he's had more than a little to do with that. Beeler's play is part of the reason that Stanford went to a bowl game last season and why the Cardinal is off to the program's best record in decades.
The Cardinal's two-year starter at center is a stalwart member of an offensive line that is regarded as the best in the Pac-10 and one of the best in the country. Beeler, a fifth-year senior, is a preseason nominee for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the top interior lineman in the country, and for the Rotary Lombardi award.
Beeler played left guard for one season on The Farm while standout Alex Fletcher finished his Stanford career at center.
Beeler made the move the following season to the position he believes fits him best. He's made 27 straight starts on the line over the last three seasons, again assessing situations and making the right calls.
Beeler credits Fletcher, the brash New Yorker, for showing him the way, even if their styles are a little different.
"Alex gave me a model and a foundation for what a center is supposed to be," Beeler said.
Beeler said he's drawn to center because of the "cerebral nature of the position."
But that wouldn't make him unique on the Stanford line, he says. It is a group that has taken much pride in paving the way for the Cardinal's successful running game, one that almost propelled Toby Gerhart to the Heisman Trophy last season.
"I think every one of our guys on the line is extremely intelligent and well-tuned to the calls and recognizing defenses," Beeler said. "I feel like you could throw any one of our guys at center just as well as me."
Still, he said he enjoys the opportunity and the pressure of the responsibility.
"And it's nice to get to touch the ball, because unless something's gone horribly wrong, it's not something linemen usually get to do."
Quarterback Andrew Luck said Beeler is a guy who "knows something about everything."
"He's one of those guys who knows a lot of movie trivia, he knows everything about history," Luck said. "He's an incredibly intelligent guy, but he's really easy to get along with and not pretentious at all. And he's become a lot more vocal."
Beeler is also Luck's partner in making line calls and reading defenses. Beeler said the two have a strong relationship, one built in friendship and comfort in the other's judgment.
"I know if I've missed a call, Andrew is good at filling me in," Beeler said. "The truth is, Andrew is a near flawless player, so I don't really have to correct him much, or remind him of the snap count. But in terms of working together, and our communication, it's very good, really seamless."
Harbaugh said he has had his share of conversations in his office with Beeler about history and literature and philosophy.
"You need to be smart to play on the offensive line, book smart and street smart," Harbaugh said. "And he's really book smart, but he's got street smarts too. He's the main guy on the offense. He's playing really well."
Beeler joked that if you are playing a game of Trivial Pursuit or going to Trivia Night at a local establishment "I'm a pretty good person to have with you."
Beeler also said he's an avid reader.
"If I've got 10 free minutes - and there isn't that much free time right now - you'll find me reading something," Beeler said. "Even if it's the ingredients on the back of a Gatorade bottle."
Beeler has earned his undergraduate degree and now is working on his masters in history with a concentration on Eastern Europe and Russia. He admits it's a tough major to apply outside of the academic world. But he said he may be looking to a career in law or even teaching.
"More realistically, I might be able to take it to the State Department or the United Nations," Beeler said.
Beeler has his fantasy ending for the final season in his college career. He'd like to see the Stanford offense driving down the final in the closing minutes with a lead on the scoreboard.
"I want us to be in our run-out-the-clock offense, picking up five or six yards a carry, and then we get into our victory formation with the quarterback taking the knee. That's how I'd like to see things end, at the 15-yard line."
by Michelle Smith