Beachum delivers commencement address

Posted May 14, 2012

Life certainly has been good for Kelvin Beachum recently.

The former SMU offensive lineman was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh-round a few weeks ago, helping him fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.

Then on Saturday, not only did Beachum receive his Master’s degree from SMU, but he also delivered the commencement address for his class at SMU’s Simmons School of Education & Human Development.

“It was a tremendous honor,” said Beachum. “I didn’t know all of these things would be happening for me. Getting drafted, addressing your peers at graduation. It’s an honor, a privilege and something you could never plan for.”

Beachum received his undergraduate degree in Economics from SMU and then continued his education earning his Masters in Liberal Studies with a concentration on organizational behavior in only 16 months.

“I don’t know the statistics on how many people go into the NFL with their Masters, but to be able to succeed on the football field and in the classroom go hand in hand for me,” said Beachum. “You have to work hard on the football field and in the classroom just to be able to stay on the field.”

It wasn’t easy for Beachum to find the perfect balance between football and his education, as football has been the dream and he wanted to keep that his main focus.  

“Football has always been my priority,” said Beachum. “My priorities are God, family and football. Football always came before school, even though I was a student-athlete. It was difficult to get to the Master’s degree and make sure I was caught up. I took on the challenges to make sure I was successful. My focus on football has never changed.

“My goal was to finish my Masters now. I didn’t want to go to the NFL and have to think about when I could go back to school. I wanted it all done. When you are in school you have school and football. You have to take time for both. With the Masters being done I can go in and all of my time will now be devoted to football, something that I love and allow me to do what I need to do to be successful in the National Football League.”

Beachum shared with his fellow students the importance of maintaining a strong will to succeed, being a positive example and overcoming challenges.

“I love testing my will, I love challenges, and I love being a positive example,” Beachum said in his speech. “My will has been truly tested. I have tested it, and others have tested it. My will has become strong and this strength, I believe, has made me a better person, better able to tackle some big, tough things in life.

“We have all faced challenges. I have faced many challenges. I have been told ‘you can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t.’ We have overcome past challenges to be graduating today. We will certainly be facing challenges in our futures.

“A strong will and ability to face challenges helps me to be a positive example for others. Each of us is an example to others. Being a positive example is a choice, it takes a will to act. With a will to face challenges and be an example, I strived to achieve the unimaginable.”

Beachum took great pride in having his family on hand to hear the speech. His father, Kelvin, Sr., had to halt his education after the eighth grade to lend a hand at home. His mother, Culetta, had him when she was 18 and didn’t finish her college degree until after he earned his undergraduate degree.

“I am the first person in my family to graduate from college and get a Masters,” said Beachum. “There are a lot of emotions going on. My father (Kelvin, Sr.) graduated with an eighth grade education. My grandfather was blind so he had to stop his education to help make ends meet as a young teenager.”

Beachum addressed the way his father tested his will as a young kid through sports, teaching him the importance of winning and losing.

“When I think about my father, as a child, I often wondered why he would place me on a team that did not win regularly or not at all,” Beachum told him fellow graduates. “I was usually a part of teams with individuals of lesser talent, sub-par desire, and very poor work ethic. Always losing as a child was hard and frustrating.  As I matured I asked my father, ‘Why did you always place me on teams that did not win?’ He said, ‘Kelvin, you have to learn how to lose before one can learn how to win.’”

One thing is for sure, Beachum has learned how to be a winner.

“For them to see their son grow up and say he was going to do something and do it, it’s everything they asked for,” said Beachum. “They always told us if you say you are going to do something, do it to the fullest of your abilities.”