Dorial Green-Beckham posed in front of his expansive, yet inadequate, trophy case last week for another photo shoot.
This time, the former Hillcrest High School megastar was being recognized by the News-Leader as our Male Athlete of the Year, our annual award for southwest Missouri’s best senior high school athlete.
But as the 19-year-old mugged in front of awards such as the Ken Hall Trophy, awarded by the U.S. Army to the best high school football player in the land, the local award seemed a little overshadowed.
Though inevitable, Green-Beckham is indeed our selection for the award and could’ve been the winner for three years now if non-seniors were eligible. It’s just another one for the overflowing trophy case, which is not big enough to contain Green-Beckham’s honors.
There are dozens of mementos: stat sheets which contain some of his Reed Middle School records, and also room for distinctions from other members of his extended family.
Across the room, Green-Beckham was “a little behind” on packing for school, filling clothes and dorm room essentials into bags and suitcases for his move to the University of Missouri in Columbia, which he made last weekend.
“There’s just a whole lot of excitement, because when you’ve been waiting that long to get up there, and now finishing high school, it’s been a lot easier for me to think about it,” Green-Beckham said. “Now I can’t wait to take the next step.”
Green-Beckham is enrolled in a couple of summer classes, and is participating in voluntary summer workouts with the Tigers, but plans to spend many of his summer weekends back in Springfield.
The pressure and expectations will ramp up again come football season, but it’ll be nothing new to perhaps Springfield’s greatest high school athlete ever.
And if history is an indication, Green-Beckham will not disappoint.
By now, most Ozarkers know the story: Green-Beckham was born in St. Louis to Charmelle Green, and bounced around between St. Louis and Springfield for much of his teenage years, staying with relatives on couches and in group homes.
Along with younger brother, Darnell, Dorial was taken in as a foster child by Tracy Beckham and her husband, John, the Hillcrest football coach. The couple had fostered dozens of children over the years, including Dorial’s older brother, Sam Smith.
After overcoming an adjustment period for the withdrawn Green boys, the couple adopted Dorial and Darnell in December 2009 after Dorial’s sophomore season.
That year, Green-Beckham made a name for himself as a blue-chip wide receiver with more than 1,600 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns.
Success continued into basketball season, where the forward helped Hillcrest to a Class 5 state championship in March 2010, coming up with big baskets and defensive plays down the stretch against Oakville in the final.
He then topped off the season during track and field in the spring, winning state gold medals in the 100 meters and triple jump, and earning second in the long jump.
MaxPreps, a national high school sports website, named Green-Beckham its Male Athlete of the Year. And Green-Beckham still had half his high school career to go.
Going into his junior year, Green added “Beckham” to his name in tribute to his new parents.
Then, Hillcrest public-address announcer Randy Ruiz coined what the superstar is most known as these days: DGB.
“I liked it right away,” Green-Beckham said. “It’s just stuck.”
Living up to the hype
Hilariously, his junior year at Hillcrest could be termed a disappointment in retrospect.
Sure, he became Missouri’s all-time career leader in receiving yards and touchdown catches. But he didn’t lead the Hornets further into the postseason than in the prior year.
In basketball, he continued to dominate for coach John Schaefer, but missed three games late in the season with a hand injury. The Hornets did not return to state despite dropping to Class 4.
In track, a hamstring injury prevented a chance for Green-Beckham to defend his state titles.
Meanwhile, the family was dealing with a medical crisis, as freshman Darnell had been diagnosed with leukemia late in basketball season, which weighed heavily on Dorial’s mind.
In his off year, Green-Beckham was named National Junior Football Player of the Year by Rivals.com, which stamped the wide receiver last spring as the nation’s No. 1 football recruit for the Class of 2012.
Come senior year, he was a marked man. Defenses were designed to stop him, but nobody in southwest Missouri could find a way to slow him down in football.
In front of a national television audience on ESPNU, Green-Beckham opened the season with 18 catches, 284 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Seneca.
The records kept falling throughout, most notably the national receiving record. He broke it Oct. 27 against Republic.
He then took the Hornets to the Class 4 state quarterfinals, their deepest postseason run ever, before taking Hillcrest back to state in basketball, falling one win short of another state title.
Green-Beckham skipped track season to concentrate on football workouts, and trained five times a week during the spring.
“He’s ready; he’s physically ready,” John Beckham said. “My biggest worry with him is just the expectations. He’s dealt with it pretty well, but it’s just a lot bigger fishbowl now.”
Any other year, Kickapoo’s Ryan Rippee would have been a fantastic selection for the News-Leader’s Athlete of the Year Award.
The senior is the storied basketball school’s all-time leading scorer, and could play Division I baseball.
And then there’s Glendale’s Cameron Johnson, who followed Green-Beckham’s lead to the gridiron and became an NCAA Division II football recruit, along with being a dominant force on the local basketball scene. Plus, Rogersville’s Joe Zimmer is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Ozarks history, and helped lead the Wildcats to a football state championship.
But even those athletes defer to Green-Beckham on this one.
“It’s something that’s never happened around here before,” Rippee said of DGB-Mania. “He pretty much changed the high school football scene around here, and impacted a lot of us normal guys in a big way.”
Rippee said his high school experience in southwest Missouri was enhanced by the attention DGB brought to the scene.
During the recruiting process, John Beckham was determined to let Green-Beckham have the most normal life as possible.
That proved to be a challenge, as normal kids don’t travel to New York during Heisman Trophy weekend as a guest of the U.S. Army; or shoot pool with NFL stars like Julio Jones at Alabama; or have college coaches like Brian Kelly and Charlie Weis travel to their hometowns to get a word with them.
Green-Beckham’s successful suitor, coach Gary Pinkel of Mizzou, made a strong impression late in the recruiting game by flying to Hillcrest via helicopter for yet another sales pitch.
Tracy Beckham has remained proud of Green-Beckham’s grounded nature, despite the overwhelming amount of attention he has received.
“If he never plays another play in football, he’s just become a really good young man,” she said. “He is thrown into situations day in and day out where he has to perform, and I’m not talking about football.
“He is put into so much pressure, and he’s handled it so well.”
Green-Beckham did not talk much with the Beckhams about his college decision, which came down to Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
He took visits to Arkansas and Missouri in the final weekends before signing day on Feb. 1, looking for the right fit.
In Fayetteville, fans “called the Hogs” for him at a basketball game during his official Arkansas visit.
Alongside Green-Beckham was Kingsley Ehie, a 2006 Hillcrest graduate mentored by the Beckhams, who had wrapped up his football career at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Ehie, who leaves this week for U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning in Georgia, said he’d talk in person with Green-Beckham, but the wide receiver did not tip his hand until late.
“I would ask him the hard questions that maybe parents wouldn’t be able to ask,” Ehie said. “We were trying to decipher fact and fiction. Some colleges say things that don’t make any sense, and you wouldn’t know it doesn’t make any sense if you haven’t been through the process.”
But in Columbia, Green-Beckham described a more relaxed reception from fans he came across, in addition to the adoring chant of “MIZ-DGB” that he received at its basketball game.
Dorial told John and Tracy shortly after the visit that he would become a Tiger.
“It was definitely the feel,” Dorial said. “After I thought about it, I had my week go by of where I really felt comfortable with it. Then I told them that a few days later, then on signing day, it felt like the right choice.”
Speaking of right choices, we like to think we made the right one here, as Green-Beckham’s fantastic high school career will not soon be forgotten.