From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like an obvious choice that Chad Beasley would further his football career at Virginia Tech. In fact, his family practically bleeds maroon and orange.
The legacy started with Beasley’s grandfather, who was in the Corps of Cadets and graduated in the late 1950’s. Beasley’s father, Tom, had a standout career with the Hokies and was honored by induction into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
It didn’t stop there, either. Beasley noted there were probably a dozen or so cousins in his family who proudly wore the distinction as Hokies. Plus, Beasley would be a part of the Gate City High School pipeline to Virginia Tech that saw several Blue Devils like Rusty Pendleton, Chris Henderson, and Phil Rogers make a name for themselves in Blacksburg.
However, the prestige and lore of the University of Tennessee struck a chord with Beasley. He took note of the storied program history with the National Championships and Hall of Fame caliber players in the NFL.
“I remember having a conversation with dad pretty late in the process coming close to Signing Day,” Beasley said. “I asked dad, ‘If this was you, what would you do?’ He said, ‘Son, it’s not me. You’re the one who’s going to have to live with this decision for the next five years of your life. Ultimately, you need to make the decision that is best for you and stick to it.’ With that being said, it was a challenging decision.”
Ultimately, Beasley was drawn to staying in-state with his sister Kerri two years ahead of him on the volleyball team at Tech, along with the tight bond he developed with defensive line coach Charley Wiles.
“Felt extremely comfortable with Charley and certainly Bud Foster and then coach Beamer as well and the staff as a whole,” Beasley said. “You take those coaches and you look at the Blacksburg community, a small town very similar to Southwest Virginia. I just felt comfortable and at peace with it.”
‘Our styles of play really complemented each other well’
Beasley arrived at Virginia Tech for orientation, excited to room with Browning Wynn, a preferred walk-on who Beasley became good friends with after playing against him at Lee High School. However, fate had other plans.
Director of Football Operations John Ballein informed Beasley that he would instead be rooming with fellow defensive tackle David Pugh instead. Earlier in the summer after his junior year, Benny Wolfe, a player at Gate City, met Pugh at a Virginia Tech football camp and told Beasley about the encounter.
“He was telling me about some guy up there and said, ‘Yeah, he was a redneck from Amherst High School. He ran the 40 in jean shorts.’ Obviously I get up and meet Pugh and put two and two together,” Beasley said. “It dawned on me who I was rooming with.”
From there began an inseparable bond between the two loads in the middle. On and off the field, Beasley and Pugh connected in ways that only two country boys could.
“Dave was explosive and quick and more of a pass rush kind of guy and making plays in the backfield,” Beasley said. “I was more of a hole plugger and a run defender, so I think our styles of play really complemented each other really well. If he made a tackle for loss, I didn’t want to go home and hear him brag about it, so I knew I needed to go in and do something big. That brotherly competition there was huge.
“Outside of football, Dave and I love to fish. A couple of guys on the team, we spent a ton of time fishing on the New River and outdoors whether it was squirrel hunting or whatever to just get our minds away from everything. That’s the kind of stuff, with the perspective of time that passed, that you look back on and really stands out to me is that relationship.”
The duo keeps in contact today, and Beasley still exchanges pleasantries, noting that he’s by far the better fisherman. This was just the start of their Virginia Tech career, though.
‘We were competing with each other daily’
Beasley redshirted in 1997 before finding playing time in 1998 as a redshirt freshman. He cherishes the triumph over Alabama in the Music City Bowl. It was setting the scene for what was going to be an enthralling 1999 season.
The defensive line that Beasley was a part of on that team breeded competition that was unmatched. Corey Moore and John Engelberger headlined the starting unit along with Carl Bradley and Nat Williams. In the two deep stood Beasley, Pugh, Chris Cyrus and Derrius Monroe.
“We all wanted to be on the field as much as we possibly could and any opportunity that we could to get out on the field, obviously the pressure was on to make a play,” Beasley said. “I think what that ended up fostering was an environment where we were competing with each other daily, and boil it down even further, on every single snap we knew we had to make an impact.
“Then, on top of that, you had guys who just absolutely loved the game, loved each other, and were committed to making that defensive line the best defensive line in the country. That’s up for debate, but I would feel comfortable putting that defensive line that year against any in the nation.”
The amalgamation of the Lunch Pail Defense and Michael Vick’s exploits on offense engineered a dream season for the Hokies that culminated with an appearance in the National Championship against Florida State.
“I graduated and I think my senior class was 167 kids,” Beasley said. “Small town in Southwest Virginia, and then you look at playing on that stage in the National Championship, it’s kind of ironic.
“You look at the ups and downs, you have a helluva drive that first drive, go down and end up fumbling. You go back and it’s an ‘ifs and buts’ kind of deal, but just the ups and downs of the game and we fought to the end there… You hate it, you’re sick afterwards for a couple days there, but when you look back, certainly very proud of all that we accomplished and were able to do during that time.”
That Florida State team was loaded from top to bottom and was the wire to wire No. 1 team in the polls all year long. However, it likely wasn’t even the most talented team that Beasley faced in his time at Virginia Tech.
That distinction would likely be given to the 2001 University of Miami team.
“You look at that Miami roster, and not all these guys started, but there were off the top of my head 12 or 14 first round draft picks off that team,” Beasley said. “You look at guys like Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James and [Jeremy] Shockey and Bryant McKinnie, the whole list was impressive. We knew going into that game that it was going to be a dogfight.”
Even Beasley’s recollection underestimated the sheer volume of talent on the Hurricanes as 17 players from that roster were eventually drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Hokies groomed all sorts of talent themselves, but fell short in a comeback effort, 26-24 after Ed Reed iced the victory with a late interception.
“Obviously two totally different programs in terms of culture,” Beasley said. “We recruited the state of Florida pretty heavily, so we had a lot of guys that were high school teammates with the Hurricanes’ guys and competed in all-star games and basketball and track and all kinds of other sports. There was that extra edge, and I’m sure it was the same on their side as well.
“There was no lack of big plays and exciting plays and critical downs in the game. Unfortunately, we just came out a little short on that.”
‘We had a pretty unique group’
So what’s the lasting impact of Beasley’s time in Blacksburg? He holds all the victories against UVa and West Virginia close to his heart. But even more than that, he holds a deep appreciation for the players that he went to battle with.
“When most people think of Virginia Tech football, obviously the first thought is 1999 in the National Championship team with Michael Vick,” Beasley said. “But when you flip over and look at 2000 and 2001, you look at the talent of guys like Lee Suggs and Jarrett Ferguson and Andre Davis as names that are very much associated with a Virginia Tech football team. On the other side you see guys like Cory Bird and Ronyell Whitaker and Ben Taylor and David Pugh. The list goes on. Really fortunate to play with those guys and develop that bond. It carries through to today.”
Despite not holding the same acclaim as the 1999 version of the Hokies, the 2001 Virginia Tech team in Beasley’s senior year was third in the nation in total defense allowing just 14.8 points per game. In the first year post-Vick on offense, the Hokies still tallied 31.3 points per game.
“I think we had a pretty unique group in that unspoken competition every play whether offense or defense,” Beasley said. “Defense was always challenging the offense to make a play and they’re doing the same. Anytime Jarrett Ferguson busted a 15-yard run on a dive up the middle, then we knew it was our turn when we got on defense to shut someone down and play lights out to one up. There was that competition and camaraderie.”
Beasley believes there’s an even greater lasting legacy of his class.
“This is my opinion and it’s certainly up for debate, but I think our class, my class that we came in with (1997), was a big part of the driving factor for those earlier teams and the ‘99 team in particular,” Beasley said. “Everyone is competitive and wants to be on the field. I think we pushed those guys a little bit, some of the seniors and juniors. Not to say that they needed it, but it was just good old fashioned healthy competition. Anytime you get that, you’re going to continue to polish that product. Ultimately, I think that’s what led to a lot of the success in ‘99.”
‘The more even keel you can stay and the better you’ll be’
Following his career at Virginia Tech, Beasley took the necessary steps to hear his name called for the NFL. Part of that process was considering a move to the offensive side of the ball as an offensive lineman. It was a conversation that Beasley even had with Frank Beamer when he first arrived on campus, but the pair decided against it.
Now, however, after Beasley was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Vikings, he began the transition to the offensive side of the ball. The first few memories of this transition weren’t the prettiest, especially his first snap in one on one drills at practice.
“I line up against the starting defensive end for Minnesota, so I line up and take what I assumed was a natural offensive line set,” Beasley said. “He rushed up the field a little bit and came back underneath. I outweighed him by at least 25 pounds and he hit me with one hand and I went flying about seven or eight yards. I got up and had a few choice words. Coach [Steve] Loney was the offensive line coach at the time, he looked at me and said, ‘Son, cussing ain’t going to help you.’ That was my first snap as an offensive lineman.”
Beasley stayed on the Vikings practice squad and continually improved, eventually landing a spot on the Cleveland Browns 53-man roster four weeks into the season. It was here where Beasley put in countless extra hours with Mike Sullivan, the Browns assistant offensive line coach at the time. The Gate City native lasted three seasons in the NFL, appearing in eight games and making three starts along the way.
“When I switched from defensive line to offensive line, there’s such a fine line between being under control and getting your ass knocked off quite frankly,” Beasley said. “For me to figure that out, it took weeks and weeks of working with Sully and after practice doing some work with Sully and the other offensive lineman there in Cleveland… I would have loved to play and have a 10-year career, but I feel very blessed for the time that I had.”
Today, Beasley finds himself as the executive vice president of the ag and turf division for Meade Tractor, a family-owned John Deere dealership with locations in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia. It’s classified as an essential business, so Beasley is tasked with the challenge of keeping employees and customers safe in these trying circumstances.
Beasley has one daughter and two sons who keep his wife and him busy and entertained. Chad’s father, Tom, loves chasing the grandkids around. Despite winning two Super Bowls with the Steelers in the late 1970’s, it was never about football just for Tom. He exemplified for Chad what a loving husband and father looks like, from the pee wee years of football to choosing a college, and even today.
“He told me, ‘Son, you’re going to have a great day and you’re going to have some bad days. The bottom line is don’t get too high with the highs and don’t get too low with the lows. The more even keel you can stay and the better you’ll be,’’ Beasley said. “That’s something I’ve taken, and I’ve been done playing for 15 years now roughly. It’s something that I’ve been able to carry with me and apply to being a husband, apply to being a father, apply to my various positions throughout Meade Tractor.”