Injuries and setbacks behind him, Terry Beckner leads unproven Missouri defense into 2018

“The strides he made is what amazed everyone in the locker room,” Drew Lock said of the lineman’s growth over his four years of college.
Senior defensive lineman Terry Beckner speaks at 2018 SEC Media Days.

Observing teammates his freshman year, Terez Hall remembers seeing a young Terry Beckner Jr. take the field against Mississippi State before their matchup in Columbia.

“We were watching him on the field,” Hall said. “He looked like the chubbiest crap, man.”

Three years later, Beckner’s physical profile doesn’t quite fit that confusing description anymore.

Sitting across a hotel suite in his sportcoat at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta, Hall couldn’t help but notice.

“You look at him now over there in the sportcoat and he’s looking swole,” Hall said. “Every time you see Terry, he’ll take that jacket off. He’s looking like [Dave] Bautista; he got a whole lot stronger. He’ll be trying to flex in the locker room like he’s got abs.”

Beckner was able to lose six percent of his body fat while gaining nine pounds of muscle during his first fully healthy offseason.

But the change for Beckner hasn’t just been physical. The standout of Missouri’s defensive line has undergone a complete transformation since joining the Tigers as a five-star recruit from East St. Louis, Illinois.

Beckner had a strong freshman year and earned Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC team honors, despite his season being cut short by a torn ACL and MCL in week 10 versus BYU.

Then came the suspension. That January, Beckner was pulled over and later arrested under a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana. He was suspended indefinitely by the team before returning for his sophomore season.

Beckner recalled struggling with the freedom of college life at the beginning of his career due to his upbringing.

“Adjusting to college was a little bit harder because you’re on your own,” Beckner said. “You don’t have your parents or people to nag you and tell you that you need to do something or that you need to act a certain way.”

After returning to the team, Beckner has not only shaken any disciplinary problems, but he has become the leader both physically and mentally for the defensive unit.

During his freshman and sophomore seasons, the idea of Beckner representing the team at media days would have been unexpected to everyone following or involved with the team, including quarterback Drew Lock.

“Terry wasn’t a bad person when he got here,” Lock said. “But just the strides he made is what amazed everyone in the locker room. Terry is one in a million.”

But fate intervened Beckner’s sophomore season when another season-ending knee injury struck, this one in week seven against Middle Tennessee State. It was another season that ended with a long road of rehab for Beckner, but he was already thinking of what it would take to get back to full strength.

“I was just thinking I’ve got another nine months of hard labor — rehab, rehab, rehab — and you’re going to be straight,” Beckner said. “I don’t like being down. Something like that can break you down mentally but I didn’t want to let that happen to me, so I just had to get back on my feet.”

Beckner returned to the team again his junior season, but he and the defense got off to a slow start. Beckner displayed the growth of his leadership in a meeting with Barry Odom, marching into his coach’s office and proclaiming that, no matter what, he was going to return for his senior season.

The decision was a simple one for Beckner. He decided he couldn’t leave his teammates.

“It was an easy decision,” Beckner said. “Because I know I wasn’t ready to leave that year. Really it was just coming back for my brothers one last time and getting my degree.”

But that changed in the second half of the season. Beckner started to gain confidence and started to come on strong, according to Hall.

“Later in the season Terry was popping up everywhere,” Hall said. “In the UCONN game he almost got a pick, had a couple tackles for losses and you can tell he was moving around a whole lot faster. And he’d got energy now. He was dropping celebrations and he just felt a whole lot better.”

Getting Beckner back to full strength was key for the defense to vastly improve its play in the back half of the season. Hall said Beckner’s play forced opponents to double team him, which opened up the rest of the defense.

“He helps us play better,” Hall said. “Playing behind him, we rally around him. We all feed off each other’s momentum, and he takes two blockers to help me get a tackle or to help Cale [Garrett] get a tackle or Brandon [Lee] get a tackle. He takes two blockers to help the other lineman get a one-on-one. Terry also holds everyone accountable.”

The transformation of Beckner positioned him to be a leader this season for Missouri, but that doesn’t mean it’s over yet. Beckner’s charge is to prove an unproven defense.

Edited by Bennett Durando |

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