Aurora Christian grad Beebe makes his 1st NFL TD especially memorable

  • Vikings wide receiver Chad Beebe catches the winning touchdown pass over the head of Carolina Panthers cornerback Corn Elder last Sunday in Minneapolis.

    Vikings wide receiver Chad Beebe catches the winning touchdown pass over the head of Carolina Panthers cornerback Corn Elder last Sunday in Minneapolis. Associated Press

  • Chad Beebe, an Aurora Christian and Northern Illinois graduate, is in his third year in the NFL after overcoming numerous season-ending injuries in high school and college.

    Chad Beebe, an Aurora Christian and Northern Illinois graduate, is in his third year in the NFL after overcoming numerous season-ending injuries in high school and college. Associated Press

  • Chad Beebe celebrates with teammate Bisi Johnson after his game-winning catch last Sunday.

    Chad Beebe celebrates with teammate Bisi Johnson after his game-winning catch last Sunday. Associated Press

  • Chad Beebe muffs a punt which was recovered by Carolina and that led to a field goal late in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Minneapolis. Beebe redeemed himself on the next series by catching the game-winning touchdown for the Vikings.

    Chad Beebe muffs a punt which was recovered by Carolina and that led to a field goal late in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Minneapolis. Beebe redeemed himself on the next series by catching the game-winning touchdown for the Vikings. Associated Press

  • Aurora Christian captains Josh Kok, Brandon Mayes and Chad Beebe hold up the championship trophy after their win over Tolono Unity in the 2012 Class 3A state title game in Champaign.

      Aurora Christian captains Josh Kok, Brandon Mayes and Chad Beebe hold up the championship trophy after their win over Tolono Unity in the 2012 Class 3A state title game in Champaign. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Don Beebe tears up as he holds a replica of his Kaneland High School football jersey at an assembly in his honor in 2016 in Maple Park. The school announced it was retiring Beebe's number.

      Don Beebe tears up as he holds a replica of his Kaneland High School football jersey at an assembly in his honor in 2016 in Maple Park. The school announced it was retiring Beebe's number. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/5/2020 5:53 PM

• First of two parts

If anyone isn't going to give up when all hope looks lost, it's Chad Beebe.

 

Now 26, the third-year NFL wide receiver has overcome serious injuries his last three years at Aurora Christian, five seasons at Northern Illinois University and first two with the Minnesota Vikings.

All hope certainly looked lost again last Sunday against Carolina. But if there's anything we should have learned by now about Beebe, it's that he doesn't give up, and he doesn't lose his faith.

With Minnesota trailing 24-21 and 2:23 remaining, Beebe went to field a punt.

He called a fair catch but bobbled the ball. Carolina recovered at the Vikings' 14-yard line. It sure seemed like game over.

"It's one of the situations where I do not want to go to the sidelines right now," Beebe said. "I called a little bit of a late fair catch, trying to be too aggressive, and took my eyes off for a split second and that's all it takes.

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"Human nature was to be disappointed, I didn't do my job. At the same time you have to have a short-term memory. Everything happens fast and there's always going to be another opportunity."

Between Minnesota using a timeout, the two-minute warning, and the Panthers throwing an incomplete pass, Beebe did get another opportunity.

After the Panthers kicked a 21-yard field goal to go up 27-21, Beebe made a pair of catches as the Vikings drove down the field. With 46 seconds to play, he got a step on his man on a seam route, and Kirk Cousins found him for a 10-yard game-winner.

It was Beebe's first NFL touchdown and capped a game when he caught all 7 passes thrown his way for 63 yards -- matching his total catches going into the game.

It also took him from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in about five minutes.

"Just a flood of emotions," he said. "Short-term memory and knowing there's some hope, trying to make better on what seemingly was going to lose us the game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Pure excitement, joy and thankfulness. I was just super blessed I was given this opportunity. I remember thinking I am going to jump up and bear hug this ball because I'm not going to drop this ball."

Cheering from home

There was plenty of emotion at his parents' house in Aurora where Don and Diana and sister Kaitlyn watched.

Don Beebe, a former NFL wide receiver who caught 219 passes and played in 6 Super Bowls in nine years, is head coach at Aurora University.

The same highs and lows Chad felt scoring the game-winner after dropping the punt, the Beebe family shared.

"When he dropped it, I'm not a real emotional guy, but I was devastated for him," Don said. "I was just hoping, don't let this be the way they lose. Then I started praying letting him have an opportunity to make it up this game. Sure enough they got the ball back and let's make some plays.

"As I sat on that couch his whole career flashed in front of my eyes in three minutes."

So much adversity

Chad Beebe's bad luck began his sophomore year in high school when he broke his foot. He broke his collarbone before his junior year started, came back midway though the year, then broke it again the week before the state championship game. As a senior Chad broke his arm.

He still earned a scholarship to Northern Illinois, and he had a number of big games. Unfortunately, the injuries kept coming, and they became more severe.

There was a freak injury going into his senior year. A week before the season, Beebe came down on a teammate's foot and needed reconstructive knee surgery.

Chad took a redshirt season. He returned and was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week as NIU almost upset Boston College in its season opener.

But the second week Beebe again suffered a serious injury, this time to his shoulder, and when Don went to visit him in the training room, Chad was finally at his breaking point.

"I saw a look I had never seen before of 'I'm done, Dad, I can't do this anymore,' " Don said.

"I always say the same thing. 'Son, do you love the Lord?' He says, 'You know I do, Dad.' I said, 'Do you think God has your back?' And he says, 'I know God has my back.' And I say, 'Then what are you worried about? What can be that devastating that God has your back and you are still going to quit? I said you aren't quitting until God tells you to quit.'"

The next day Chad told his dad he was right. He rehabbed the shoulder instead of getting season-ending surgery, and returned a few weeks later and won player of the week honors against Bowling Green.

He also took a hit to his ribs late in the game and played two more weeks. Turns out Chad lacerated his liver and was bleeding internally. He was rushed to a hospital and his college career was over.

"There were some bumps in the road and injuries where I thought I don't know if I can do this anymore," Chad said. "Those were the times I fell back on my faith. If you live your life that way you always live with the results."

Long road to the NFL

That injury not only ended Beebe's NIU days, it cut into his preparation for the NFL draft. He was undrafted, but got a mini camp invite in 2018 with the Vikings.

"The lowest rung to get into a training camp," remembered Chad. "To me it was an opportunity. My mindset was I'm going to come in here and show what I can do because I have nothing to lose."

The Vikings eventually cut a player to bring Beebe into training camp and put him on their practice squad. A few weeks later coach Mike Zimmer told the media his No. 1 defense couldn't cover Beebe in practice, so he might as well activate him.

In his first game he made a couple catches against Detroit. But the injuries didn't stop.

A hamstring ended his first season. Last year, a hit on a punt return severed four ligaments in his ankle.

Beebe keeps coming back, and he's enjoying his best year yet. He met his wife Mackenzie in Minnesota, and said it has been a whirlwind this past week hearing from friends.

"To be honest with all the injuries I've had, I feel fantastic right now, the best I've ever felt. That's saying a lot because I've had a lot of injuries and surgeries," Chad said.

Faith plays a central role for both father and son. Neither think Chad would be where he is without it.

"Such a roller coaster," Beebe said. "Back of my mind I was thinking did this really happen? That just proves in my mind and I hope to others that there is a God. He was with me the whole time through this journey. It speaks to how God will bring you through things. That part makes me smile."

• Next: Chad Beebe on growing up with a dad who played in the NFL.

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