Terron Beckham's journey to becoming an NFL prospect was anything but traditional.
He didn't earn a full scholarship right out of high school. He didn't spend four years honing his craft at a collegiate powerhouse like Alabama or Notre Dame. He isn't projected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft (or the second, or the third). Instead, he spent the last five years chiseling his body into Hercules-like proportions and gaining a huge following on social media for ridiculous feats of athleticism, such as performing a Box Jump with 315 pounds on his back.
But despite his unusual path, Beckham has succeeded in placing himself on the radar of several pro teams. So how did a 23-year-old fitness model who didn't play a down of college football end up as a legit NFL prospect?
The story starts in Las Vegas at the 2015 Mr. Olympia Fitness and Performance Expo. Beckham was cruising the convention floor when he came across a booth advertising a Vertical Jump contest. Interested in the chance to win some cash, he removed his shirt and promptly launched into a 44-inch Vertical.
Kevin Dunn, the CEO and Owner of TEST Football Academy, saw Beckham's explosiveness and immediately approached him. "Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked him 'What's your story?'" Dunn said. Beckham detailed a once-budding football career derailed by financial and geographical issues and told Dunn he was now working as a fitness model and trainer in New York City. To add another layer of intrigue, Beckham also revealed that he was the cousin of New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
TEST happens to be located in Martinsville, New Jersey—a short drive from NYC—and it has a long history of training NFL prospects, including Patrick Peterson and Joe Flacco. After discussing it with his staff and putting Beckham through a private workout, Dunn decided to offer him a spot in their 2016 class of prospects. He would train alongside players from programs such as Alabama and Michigan and get a chance to showcase his abilities at the facility's Pro Day. It didn't take long for Beckham—who'd always dreamed of returning to football—to accept the offer.
"A lot of bodybuilders or fitness models or those types of guys don't have the same athleticism [as Terron]. But he played football for 10 years before college. So yeah, he didn't have the last four years of college ball, but he has 10 years under his belt," Dunn said.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Beckham is hoping to break into the league as a running back, and he's been hard at work for the past several months refining his technique and fine-tuning his skills.
STACK recently caught up with Beckham to find out more about his unique story and learn how he's preparing to make an impact in the NFL.
Raised in Football Country
Beckham was born and raised just outside of Dallas, Texas, a region of the country that takes football very seriously. "High school is basically college football. Every high school has a stadium, everything's huge, everything's big. They do a really good job of pumping up football down there," Beckham said.
His parents, Terry Beckham and Jerri Fondren, both played sports in their younger days. Terry was an outstanding track & field athlete who still holds the school record in the Triple Jump at Morehead State University, and Jerri grew up with a love for basketball. Terron started playing organized football at an early age, and though it's enticing to envision him and Odell tossing the pigskin around as toddlers, the two weren't close due to the fact that Odell lived in Louisiana.
When it came time for Beckham to attend high school, he enrolled at Richardson High, a school of 2,500 students in Dallas County. There, he was a member of the football, basketball and track & field teams. He had great potential on the gridiron, but frequent position changes stifled his growth. "I was one of those players who kind of played everywhere. I went from playing some offense and some running back to playing defensive end, linebacker, safety," Beckham said.
Shortly before his senior year at Richardson, Beckham felt the urge to transfer. His parents were separated and money issues were becoming more pressing. He felt that moving in with his aunt and uncle would be a smart move for everyone. "My parents were split up, and seeing some things between them involving money, as a kid, you feel like you're the reason for the problems," Beckham said. "So I decided to move in with my uncle and aunt in Fort Meade, Maryland. They're a military family. I thought it was the better choice for me and my family."
The Anonymous Breakout
Despite joining the team as a senior, Beckham quickly earned the starting running back spot at Meade High School. He went on to have a breakout year, racking up 1,078 rushing yards. He also developed quite a physique, claiming to be one of the strongest players on the team. "I was always working out with the linemen and stuff like that. Lean, muscular, dense—not as diesel as I am now—but I was like 205 pounds maybe," Beckham said. Despite his strong senior season and impressive athleticism, Beckham's late emergence and relocation hindered his recruiting. D-I programs weren't knocking down his door; but Stevenson University, a nearby Division III school, took a strong interest in him.
"The coach brought me to their campus and really wanted me to be a part of the team, and I felt like we had a connection," Beckham said. "When I brought up the fact that I couldn't really afford school, he said they had a way of taking care of that." Beckham enrolled at Stevenson for his freshman year under the impression the school would aid in paying his tuition, only to find out the only help they could offer came in the form of student loans. "I ended up having to pull out two student loans and that still wasn't enough to pay for school. I basically had to move out of the dorms because I didn't have enough financial aid to cover that. I moved from room to room throughout the semester trying to find somewhere to stay. I ended up having to give up football to work and to pay for the rest of school," Beckham said.
The financial issues forced him to drop out of Stevenson after his first semester. He intended to find somewhere else to play; but since he still owed Stevenson a hefty sum, he couldn't legally enroll at other schools. He ended up moving in with his sister back in Texas, taking various jobs in an attempt to shore up his finances. "I worked at Gamestop, I worked at Best Buy, I worked at Hollister. Anything I could do to pull in any money I could. I was also paying for my groceries and stuff like that, stuff colleges normally pay for, but I had to pay out of my own pocket. So it makes that transition to pay off the school longer," Beckham said.
Around this time, Beckham morphed into a bonafide gym rat, in part because he wanted to stay physically prepared for his next opportunity to play football—whenever and wherever that might be. He started competing in physique competitions and landing work as a fitness model and personal trainer. He trained ferociously and watched his body become capable of incredible things. Under the name "fbaftermath," Beckham began posting photos of himself on Instagram in 2012. His physique and amazing weight room feats helped him attract a huge audience, and he currently boasts 130,000 followers on Instagram. "When I was on my own and I'd see these huge fitness people, I thought, 'Alright, I gotta do something that's going to go viral and really make people think this guy's crazy,'" Beckham said.
As his modeling and training brands blossomed into a legitimate career, he was able to move from Texas to New York City. But returning to football was always in the back of his mind. When Dunn approached him with the opportunity last year, it seemed the stars had finally aligned. "An opportunity like this wasn't going to come again. The key was right there in front of me—I just had to grab it and open the door and show myself in," Beckham said.
From Fitness Freak to NFL-Ready Prospect
When Beckham arrived at TEST in mid-January, his raw athleticism was off the charts. He was already capable of posting impressive combine numbers, despite the fact that he had room for improvement in several key areas—notably flexibility and agility. He was also massively muscular, tipping the scale at nearly 240 pounds. Biceps the size of battleships might be nice, but the TEST coaches knew a slimmer frame would help Beckham achieve an ideal balance of speed and strength. "Drop some weight, add a little bit more speed, get a little higher on the Vert, get further out on the Broad. It was just about trying to make it a little easier on myself to make those movements," Beckham said.
To increase his flexibility and mobility, Beckham immediately began a regimen that included yoga, physical therapy and dynamic and static stretching. "We expected him to be tight. We expected his flexibility and mobility to be issues. But we've been hammering on those, and we think he's gotten better," Dunn said. Beckham has also made huge improvement in his agility, which wasn't a priority in his training before he arrived at TEST. "That change of direction, swiveling those hips and being able to transfer that power … those are the things I've definitely had to work on more than anything," Beckham said. "I haven't been used to moving that way for a long time, but the more we do it, the easier it gets … it's definitely loosening up for me."
Beckham also successfully slimmed down. His weight currently stands at 225 pounds, and he's looking to drop a few more in the coming weeks. "Since I've done physique competitions before, I know how to change my body pretty easily. It's also not been that difficult to lose weight since we're burning like 5,000 calories a day with our training here," Beckham said. The weight loss has helped him feel more nimble and reduce the pounding on his joints.
Beckham's progress has been exciting, but the transition into this style of training wasn't easy. He had been his own coach for the past five years, so it took time to adapt to working under a schedule and philosophy not his own. "I was on my own for so long and I only had to listen to myself and I felt like I got myself to a great place. But the coaches here have been doing this for a lot longer than me and have worked with hundreds of athletes. So you have to trust the process, you have to put your pride aside and say, 'Alright, I'm gonna listen to you and put my trust in you to get me better and get me where we're all trying to get me,'" Beckham said.
Simply being strong, fast and explosive probably won't be enough to land Beckham a job in the NFL. He'll also have to prove he possesses the football acumen required to succeed at the highest level—which most players develop at the college level. Mason Robinson, a former Rutgers running back who spent time with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been helping Beckham raise his football IQ and learn the finer points of the position. "I ask him questions all the time. When I'm running this route, what am I looking for from the linebacker or the safety? What are the key details I can look at to make my routes better, my running lanes better, my vision better?" Beckham said.
There's no guarantee he'll be in the NFL next season, but Beckham certainly looks the part in workouts. When STACK visited TEST a couple of weeks ago, Beckham was every bit as strong as advertised, deadlifting 585 pounds for six reps. He also looked highly explosive in his 40-Yard Dash, gliding along the turf with minimal effort. "He's a freak of nature; every combine class has one, and he's this year's," said Ato Boldon, four-time Olympic sprint medalist and TEST's linear speed coach.
When you watch Beckham run routes and handle the ball, you would never guess that he hasn't played organized football in half a decade. He tracks the ball well and moves smoothly in space, attributes that will go a long way with any pro team that's scouting him. Dunn sees Beckham as a player who likely won't make a huge impact in the NFL right away, but if he's picked up by a team that will be patient with him, it could pay off.
"I think there's opportunity for him. I think there's definitely opportunity to hit a practice squad and develop over these next few years. He hasn't had the college football experience, so he is going to still need some more developing time," Dunn said. "But if that comes together, it could be the perfect storm for a team. It's not every day I'm watching a guy put up 40-plus reps in the Bench test, jumping an 11-6 Broad [Jump], clocking a sub-4.50 laser-timed 40-Yard Dash."
When asked if he would trade the past five years for a traditional college football experience, Beckham says he wouldn't change a thing. "I know that regardless of anything, I have built myself as a person and have built a business and probably done some things I never would've done if I'd played football in college. Being in college for four years, you're kind of being babysat. You're taken care of, you got your food, you got your dorm, you don't have to worry about anything. When you're an 18-year-old and you get thrown into life, you have no choice but to survive. I had to grow quickly," Beckham said. "And I've been waiting to prove myself for a long time."
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock