COLUMBIA — When Roderick Beasley was a freshman on the Hickman football team, he ended up in the sand pit.
The sand pit is a strenuous conditioning drill used mostly as punishment. Beasley recalls getting in trouble often early in his career, whether it be for talking back to coaches or cracking the wrong joke.
Jackson (5-1) at Hickman (6-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: LeMone Field at Alumni Stadium
The Hickman coaches describe Beasley as a playful kid who loves to have fun. The simple mention of Beasley’s name brings a smile to the faces of his teammates and coaches. But Beasley, now a junior, has matured since coming into the program, and the results have shown on the field for the 6-0 Kewpies.
“He reminds me a lot of myself,” wide receiver coach Cedric Alvis said. “He’s always joking, and that helps sometimes. But his maturation has been with his focus. He knows when to get serious.”
Beasley’s days of extra conditioning aren’t completely behind him, though. An overly aggressive hit in Wednesday’s practice earned him 10 pushups, and head coach Arnel Monroe had him running sprints after practice for a separate indiscretion.
“It’s a work in progress,” Monroe said. “He’s a playful kid, and sometimes that gets in his way. But he really works hard at his craft.”
Beasley, who jokingly refers to himself as “RB5,” a combination of his initials and jersey number, has learned a lot since his freshman season. Part of that is because of Monroe’s tough approach.
“Freshman year I liked to talk back a little bit,” Beasley said. “I had a little bit of an attitude. But once you’ve done so much running, you learn to shut your mouth.”
Beasley still likes to have fun in practice. Between drills, he is laughing with teammates or jokingly celebrating a big play. Game day is a different story, though, Beasley said.
“Practice time you have to be focused, but whenever you’re not in the middle of a drill you can joke around a little bit,” Beasley said. “Game day is all focus. There isn’t any time to joke around.”
That focus has translated into three touchdowns for Beasley in Hickman’s past two games. Beasley caught the team’s only two scores in its most recent win over Jefferson City, including the game-winner.
Hickman junior quarterback Mason Murray was in the seventh grade when he threw his first pass to Beasley. He said the two have been building a friendship and on-field connection since their days in the Columbia Youth Football League.
“He makes it a lot of fun,” Murray said. “He’s someone who is always goofing around and someone you can have fun with. It’s been great growing up together and developing together.”
While most of Beasley’s teammates refer to him as Roderick or Rod, Murray is one of the few that calls him Rick. Murray and Beasley, who also play basketball together, often hang out at each other’s houses or spend extra time throwing the ball around, which has helped build that chemistry.
“Mason’s one of the few people that when Roderick gets excited, he can calm him down,” Monroe said. “You can tell they’re the best of friends, and that really works for us.”
Beasley will continue to kid around and laugh with teammates and coaches. But as long as he provides the offense with dynamic playmaking ability at wide receiver, smiles might stay on the coaches’ faces, and they might be able to tolerate a few poorly-timed jokes.