Before his freshman football season at Clinton High, Kendell Beckwith made a bold prediction.
Beckwith told family and friends that by the second game, he’d be starting at defensive end alongside his older brother. East Feliciana High coach Cedric Anderson, then the Clinton coach, wasn’t amused.
Now Anderson laughs when he tells the story about what happened next.
“The thing that sets Kendell apart is his desire to compete and win,” Anderson said. “He doesn’t like to lose at anything, and he showed all of us that first year. Forget about starting by the second game, Kendell was a starter in the (preseason) jamboree.”
Three years later, the 17-year-old Beckwith is a hot commodity. He’s 6-foot-3, weighs 231 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds going into his senior season at East Feliciana.
No, he doesn’t leap tall building in a single bound. But Rivals.com rates Beckwith No. 81 nationally and No. 3 in Louisiana — behind University High defensive end Tim Williams and Barbe-Lake Charles tight end DeSean Smith, an LSU commitment.
Beckwith is projected as a linebacker on the college level. His list of scholarship offers starts with LSU and Alabama and also includes Florida State, Nebraska, Arkansas, Tennessee and Notre Dame.
It is always important to keep all the intangibles, like that desire to win, in mind when it comes to Beckwith.
“I love football, and I want to win, no matter what,” Beckwith said. “My whole family played defense. I love it.
“But playing quarterback is part of that, too. I’ll throw the ball or run with it depending on what we need. I try to be just as aggressive on offense as I am on defense.”
Beckwith honed his aggressive tendencies as a sophomore, leading EFHS to the Class 2A semifinals and a 12-1 record as a quarterback. He passed for 1,582 yards and 18 touchdowns and also ran for 863 yards and 15 TDs.
Defense was an afterthought that year. The East Feliciana Parish school represented the consolidation of two schools, Clinton and Jackson High. There were plenty of experienced defenders. Beckwith got the potentially unenviable role of being a team standard bearer at quarterback.
“I knew Kendell was going to be good,” Anderson said. “With all the accolades and attention he’s received, it’s fair to say he’s exceeded my expectations. “What he did as a first-year starter at quarterback when he was a sophomore wasn’t easy. There was tension because you had two communities and players from two schools coming together. Kendell stepped in and took on the leadership role and handled it beautifully. He was showing poise.”
Things changed during Beckwith’s junior season. He had to display poise and endurance. The Tigers lost a number of players to graduation and also moved from Class 2A to Class 3A in 2011.
Anderson implored Beckwith to be an every down player, playing on defense and offense. The EFHS coach said Beckwith did it with a smile. Beckwith garnered All-Metro and 3A all-state honors on defense with 42 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. On offense, he tallied nearly 1,800 yards.
“Just a tremendous athlete and a great young man from what I understand, too,” Parkview Baptist coach Kenny Guillot said. “He ranks there with the best athletes we’ve played against the last few years, like Jeremy Hill at Redemptorist and Kenny Hilliard from Patterson.
“The thing I really like is that he plays hard on every down. Last year, he never left the field when we played them (East Feliciana). And he broke a 40- or 50-yard touchdown run on us in the fourth quarter.”
Guillot also mentioned Beckwith comes from a great bloodline. Two of his uncles played college football. Former Parkview and LSU linebacker Dary Beckwith is a cousin. His older brother, Wendell Jr., is a defensive end at Tulane.
Watching his brother and others go through the recruiting process has made it seamless for Beckwith, Anderson said.
“Some guys don’t handle recruiting well, but Kendell has,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter who calls or stops by school, he always greets the coach and spends time with them.”
Intangibles off the field are just as important. Beckwith carries a 3.3 grade-point average and has already met the NCAA’s academic standards.
Academics, most notably a planned major in either agriculture are agri-business, are just as important as football to Beckwith. Each night he dutifully tends to two horses he owns and rides.
“Some day, I’d like to have a farm or ranch of my own,” Beckwith said. “I’d like to have horses and cattle to tend to. I like animals, and I like being outside.
“But in order to do that, I know I need to make the grades and have a degree. In our family, my parents (Wendell Sr. and Urhonda) always made it clear that school comes first.”
Beckwith said he hasn’t set up any recruiting visits yet. He’s focusing on preparations for the 2012 season after attending summer camps at LSU, Alabama and in Portland, Ore.
“To finish strong ... that’s what I want,” Beckwith said. “It’s important for all of the seniors to see this team work hard so that we can all be the best we can be.
“The goal is to play for a state championship. We want to go as far as we can together.”
Beckwith said he plans to weigh his college options carefully. While colleges consider him to be the “total package,” Beckwith said he is looking for a total football-academics package.
“Kendell’s got a tough (college) choice to make,” Anderson said. “As a coaching staff (at EFHS), we all want him to make a wise one, and I believe he’s prepared to do that.”