Football: A few minutes with Tim Beckman

So far, he hasn’t won a game at Illinois. He also hasn’t lost a game.

First-year Illinois football head coach Tim Beckman has had his opening press conference after he was hired on Dec. 11, to become the 23rd head football coach at lllinois. He’s had the chance to hire his first coaching staff at Illinois.

He’s had spring practices.

He’s had chances to see recruits come to campus and talk to families.

He just finished up his first Big Ten media days.

He even sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

In five days, he’ll get his first chance to see Illinois players compete and practice at Camp Rantoul, the Illinois football team’s annual pilgrimage to Rantoul that has become a program staple under former head coaches Ron Turner and Ron Zook.

Beckman and his players’ time in Rantoul, on the grounds of the Bill Seeber Memorial Complex, will be shorter than usual.

The team will still stay at the Quarters Inn and eat its meals at The Linden banquet facility, but will not hold a scrimmage at Rantoul Township High School’s Bill Walsh Field.

Players will arrive on Sunday, with workouts scheduled to start next Monday and last the rest of next week before players, coaches and staff depart Rantoul on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Rantoul Press Sports Editor Matt Daniels talked with Beckman at the end of June about Camp Rantoul, his thoughts on adjusting to living in Champaign County, three people he would like to have dinner with and much more.

Daniels: When did you first hear about Camp Rantoul?

Beckman: When I got here, to be honest with you. I didn’t know a whole bunch about it.

I think it’s a great deal, not just for us for football, but also recruiting to say that you have a camp a lot like an NFL camp.

That’s kind of a unique thing in college football.

Daniels: What were your initial thoughts on having Camp Rantoul?

Beckman: I needed to evaluate it first because I have not done it.

Change can be good, so that’s something I evaluated. I came over and saw the facilities and made a decision with school jumping up a week that we were going to be able to do it for a week.

Daniels: What are your plans for Camp Rantoul?

Beckman: With the way our camp starts and the way it works here, NCAA rules-wise, you have to go through an acclimation period.

That’s five days. Those just happen to be five of the first days.

Through the first three days, the players will go through one-a-day (practices), but the coaches go through a two-a-day (sessions).

We split the team up into a Blue team and an Orange team. While the Blue team is practicing, the Orange team is lifting, and vice versa.

Tuesday will be a shells day. We’ll finally be able to get into the pads on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday we’ll be in full pads.

Daniels: Is the team going to practice on campus after Camp Rantoul ends?

Beckman: We’re going to call it Camp Hawthorn. We’re going to stay at the Hawthorn Suites over here (in Champaign) and end up doing a camp-type atmosphere also.

Daniels: Are the practices open to the public in Rantoul, and what’s that like for you?

Beckman: Yes (they are open to the public). I think it’ll be a great experience.

With my father being in the NFL and being involved with a lot of NFL camps that were open to the public, I think it’ll be a good scenario.

It’ll be a little different because we’re not in full pads and we’re not there as a full team until Thursday. I think it’ll be good for our players and the Illini faithful.

Daniels: What did you think of the surroundings in Rantoul when you visited?

Beckman: Not bad. There’s a lot of football space. The hardest thing, I think, is just being able to go from meetings to the locker room area.

You have to adjust for time on that. Other than that, I would say they’re adequate.

Daniels: How did you do preseason camps at Toledo?

Beckman: A lot of the same way we did it at Oklahoma State and Ohio State. We stayed at the dorms.

I lived with them, and I’ll live with them for all of (Camp Rantoul). I’ve always done that where I’ve been.

We were in dorms at Toledo. We were in dorms at Oklahoma State, and at Ohio State we stayed at a hotel that is kind of like the Hawthorn in terms of being that far away.

Daniels: How important are preseason camps?

Beckman: It’s huge, there’s no question about it.

To be able to go and focus on the team, that’ll be good in Rantoul, and I think that’ll be good here at Hawthorn. It’s just very important.

It gets the staff back with the players.

Daniels: What made you want to start coaching?

Beckman: I’ve been around football for 47 years of my life since I was a kid.

I guess the experiences that I had as a son of a football coach kind of drew me towards that and showed me that, ‘Hey, this is a good life,’ and there’s a lot of rewards watching student-athletes get better in the classroom and on the football field.

That’s why we ended up doing it.

Daniels: How has your family adjusted to Champaign County so far?

Beckman: It’s been awesome. I’ve only got one son at the high school age. My other two are in college.

The people have been unbelievable. They’re just very friendly. (Youngest son) Alex’s adjustment has been smooth.

He’s started playing baseball and football at Urbana, and it’s been great.

The house we’re in right now is only two bedrooms. I’ve got me and the wife and two of (the children) with me right now, so it’s getting a little small.

Daniels: What’s the biggest difference from being an assistant college football coach to being the head coach?

Beckman: Of course, instead of just managing your position, you’re managing the whole football team and everything to do with the football program.

I guess that’s probably the biggest difference from being an assistant.

I think there’s a lot of similarities.

Being a head coach at a mid-major and being a head coach here, it’s still about the student-athletes and trying to provide them with the best opportunities to be successful.

Daniels: How has college football changed in the last 20 years?

Beckman: That’s a great question. Thinking about it out loud right now after asking, I think it’s the best that there is out there.

The opportunity to be involved in a 105-member family (is great).

The game has changed. The tempo and the speed of the game has changed, but it’s still football.

It’s still about the fundamentals of tackling, blocking, catching, throwing and doing those types of things.

Daniels: What are your thoughts on Division I college football moving to a four-team playoff system starting with the 2014 season?

Beckman: I thought just listening to it (when it was announced) on ESPN, it’s something that I think will be good for football.

I think they’ve studied it long and hard. That was my biggest concern is if we’re making a change of something that has been around for a long time and has a lot of history to it.

As long as we’ve studied every avenue we thought would be best for the student-athlete and the game itself, that was the only concern I had.

I think after what they talked about and some of the things they’re heading towards, being able to have a four-team national tournament will be beneficial to the game as long as we continue to strive to make sure that we’re not missing classes and doing those things that can hurt being a student.

Daniels: If you could have dinner with any three people, who would they be?

Beckman: Wow. Dinner, huh? Probably Vince Lombardi would have to be one because I think being able to learn from him would be great.

George Patton. I’ve been blessed with being around some good people.

I’m very involved in reading leadership books.

I would have to say, and in all honesty this might sound corny because it’s Illinois, but Abraham Lincoln.

Daniels: Why did you make a point of going around and introducing yourself to area high school football head coaches after you were hired?

Beckman: I think that’s the name of the game is relationships and being able to shake hands with the people that are doing the same thing you are.

They’re just doing it at a different level. That’s recruiting. That’s the image you want portrayed with your program. I think it’s just important.

The success of the University of Illinois football program will be a direct reflection of the type of young men that we recruit here and the willingness to perform and do the things that we think are necessary to be successful.

They did learn from somebody, and that was from a high school and pee wee coach.

Daniels: Can you go anywhere in Champaign County without being recognized?

Beckman: Shoot, I don’t know. I think people have been really, really friendly in giving me some opportunities to be a dad and to be a husband.

I think that’s a unique thing about the Champaign-Urbana area is that people allow that.

Daniels: What do you like to do in your free time away from coaching?

Beckman: (Laughs). That’s such a great question because you don’t really have free time your first year.

I love to boat and be around the water.

That was something that my family always did when my dad had his time off is we’d get out together as a family.

Daniels: How would you describe the Illinois fan base in your first six months on the job?

Beckman: I think it’s been outstanding. We were on these caravans (throughout the state in May and June), and we just set records at every one we were at.

We’ve got new coaches in men’s and women’s basketball and football, and an athletic director who was involved in his first caravans, so you see a lot of orange and blue.

Daniels: What’s your favorite movie?

Beckman: To be honest with you, I haven’t watched many. It would have to be something involved in the game of football.

“Brian’s Song” is probably one of the best ones I remember as a kid growing up.

Daniels: Who was one athlete you admired growing up?

Beckman: I was a big Minnesota Vikings fan. Fran Tarkenton, back in that day and age, was just phenomenal.

Daniels: What will be going through your mind the night before the season opener on Sept. 1 against Western Michigan?

Beckman: It’ll just be like any other opportunity that you have. It’ll always be something that you always look forward to.

I get geeked up for every game. I’m sure there will be a little bit of nerves rolling.

Daniels: What would it mean to you to have Illinois consistently mentioned, every year, among the top college football programs in the country?

Beckman: That’s what you’re in the business for is to build a consistent winner. That’s exactly it.

We’ve got some good players and people here involved in this program.

That’s what you want, and that’s why you come here is to be consistent and do things consistently on and off the football field.
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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