Monday, June 22, 2009|The young football player’s surname is Beathard, and that name rings a bell in any football town. San Diego, certainly, is no exception.
Bobby Beathard was the general manager of the Chargers when the franchise made its only Super Bowl trip in the 1994 season. That followed his career with the Washington Redskins when he built two Super Bowl champions in the 1982 and 1987 seasons, not to mention a third Super Bowl season in 1983.
But back to that young football player I mentioned: a safety from La Jolla High, who is bound for the University of San Diego.
Add on his first name, and Robbie Beathard hears the obvious question over and over.
“There is no relation,” said Robbie with a laugh, providing the answer to a question before it was fully stated. “I get asked that all the time. Pretty soon I’m going to start telling people I am related to him. I might get me more interest as a football player.”
His parents named him Robert Drake Beathard for his grandfather, and he has gained plenty of attention on his own merits. He would stand out as a football player if his name was Robbie Smith.
In addition to earning an offer from USD, the scholar-athlete with a 4.31 grade-point average was weighing offers from Ivy League schools Harvard and Columbia. He also had an offer from UCLA as a preferred walk-on.
But before graduation last week, he picked up a prestigious award to his bio when he was named the 2009 recipient of the Brent Woodall Memorial Scholarship.
Woodall was a three-sport athlete at La Jolla that graduated in 1988 as the San Diego Tribune Prep Athlete of the Year. He went on to play football at Cal as a tight end and pitch in the Chicago Cubs minor league system.
A scholarship honoring La Jolla’s top student athlete was established in his name after he died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
“As a student, an athlete and as a son, Robbie is the kind of kid that fits perfectly the character of Brent Woodall,” said Rey Hernandez, a long-time La Jolla assistant coach.
Hernandez, who takes over as La Jolla’s head coach in 2009 following 31 years as an assistant at La Jolla and Helix, had Woodall as a student at Muirlands Middle School before he joined La Jolla’s coaching staff.
He added Beathard received what is considered La Jolla’s most important football honor when he won the Gene Edwards Ironman Award. The late Edwards was a San Diego high school football coaching legend at La Jolla.
“Robbie was the kind of kid Gene and Brent both would have loved,” Hernandez said. “Of all the years I’ve coached, he’s the most dedicated and committed kid I’ve had. He does everything you ask of him as a student and citizen. Any school would have been lucky to get him.
“It’s hard to predict how someone will do in college, but I’ve told college coaches that recruited Robbie, as far as character and desire, I guarantee you that you will be proud of how he represents your school.”
Beathard said he picked USD for the chance to stay home and play for a strong football program. The Toreros are entering their third season under Ron Caragher, who has gone 18-4 the last two seasons.
“The deciding factor for me is USD had everything I was looking for in a school,” Beathard said. “No. 1, they have academics. I was looking for a competitive program where I could be successful on the field as opposed to trying to make it at a powerhouse Division I program. Plus, I love San Diego and the people. That was the icing on the cake.”
Beathard’s name will now be engraved on a plaque hanging on a wall in the school office with the names of the other Brent Woodall scholarship recipients.
“I first started learning about him as a freshman when I saw the plaque,” Beathard said. “I did some research, and he was a role model and he’s someone I’ve tried to model myself after. I can’t describe what it feels like to win an award in his name.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened to him, but from what coaches here have told me about him, he was the kind of guy that was trying to help everyone get out before him.”
Robbie Beathard said he’s never met Bobby Beathard, but he’d love to some day.
And if they were seen talking on a football field, people that recognized Bobby Beathard talking to a USD kid with Beathard printed on the back of his jersey would no doubt be asking themselves that familiar question.
Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions and an occasional writer for Chargers.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to the editor.