How Oprah Winfrey inspired Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum

Kelvin Beachum chronicles the important moments every day, dividing his professional and private lives into separate journals. He catalogues his hopes and dreams, lessons learned and lessons to be learned.

Nine football journals rest in his Arizona home. He flipped through one of them a couple weeks ago after making the cross-country trip with his wife and daughter. The Jets left tackle wanted to access his notes on the Buffalo Bills, his first opponent this season.

He also has five personal journals inspired by Oprah Winfrey, who started keeping a Gratitude Journal more than 20 years ago to help make her “more receptive to the goodness in your life.”

Beachum embraced the power of the written word. He followed Oprah’s lead by writing three things that he was grateful for each day. It made him appreciate the simple and pure moments in life. It grounded him.

Beachum is a naturally inquisitive 28-year-old, whose thirst for knowledge will likely never be quenched. He is thoughtful, smart and appreciative in ways that escape too many of us.

He is eternally optimistic in the face of what many believe will be a Herculean challenge for the Jets this week against the powerhouse Raiders. . . and the coming weeks against everyone else.

“Life moves so fast,” Beachum said. “I’m blessed… I want to talk about what God has done for me, where he’s brought me from, the obstacles I’ve overcome. Sometimes it can be so easy for us to forget that.”

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Oprah Winfrey inspired Kelvin Beachum to keep journals.

(John Salangsang/AP)

Beachum’s professional education never stops. He has always been proactive about his craft, seeking out greats of the past to better himself. Last month, he reached out to seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Lomas Brown in the run-up to the Jets’ second preseason game in Detroit. Brown and Beachum talked shop in the lobby of the Jets hotel, swapping war stories. Brown waxed poetic about Richard Dent. Beachum listened.

“I want to learn,” Beachum said about talking to former great linemen. “Learn about them. Learn about their stories. Learn about the challenges they had as a player. Learn about their success. What they did right. What they did wrong. Ask for their wisdom against the edge rushers of their time.”

“I’m just blessed to know people who know people,” Beachum added. “I know that I’m going into Year 6, but that doesn’t mean that I have to stop learning. I’m talking to guys that played a long time, went to Pro Bowls, went to Super Bowls, won Super Bowls. Those are the type of people I want to be associated with and learn from.”

Brown was the latest former player to share wisdom with Beachum, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Jets in the offseason. Beachum has talked to former Jets great D’Brickashaw Ferguson, two-time Pro Bowler Brad Hopkins and many more. He trains each offseason with former Pro Bowl lineman LeCharles Bentley.

While most of the rest of the NFL world loves debating Brady vs. Montana, Beachum is consumed with discussing the big eaters of the past and present. During a break at a training camp practice, offensive line coach Steve Marshall and tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson, who played with Washington’s famed Hogs in the 1980s, got into a debate about the greatest tackle of all-time. Anthony Munoz? Walter Jones?

“It’s like the whole conversation with Michael Jordan, Kobe and now LeBron,” Beachum said before letting out a laugh. “I couldn’t care less about the quarterbacks. If you think about all the great quarterbacks, they had to have offensive linemen to protect them. I think you have a deeper appreciation for what you do and you respect it more and take more pride in it when you understand some of the history and some of the things that others went through. I want to understand some of the lessons that they learned that afforded me the opportunity that I have. I wouldn’t call myself a historian, but I loooove the history of offensive line play.”

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Kelvin Beachum is emerging as an important voice for the Jets.

(Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Beachum transformed from a tight end to a left tackle when the starting blind-side protector on his junior high school team got hurt. He’s never looked back. He was exposed to some former greats at SMU by coach Dennis McKnight, who played with Brown in the NFL, and mentor Adrian Klemm, who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots.

Beachum might be a large human by normal standards, but at a shade under 6-3 and 298 pounds, he’s about four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the prototypical left tackle. Yet the former seventh-round pick by the Steelers has lasted six years in the league.

“They say that anybody can get to the league… but how do you stay here?” Beachum said. “There’s people that got drafted the same year that I got drafted that are not here anymore. It’s about staying in the league… not just getting here. I want to play until the wheels fall off.”

He also wants to share the lessons that he’s learned with younger teammates. Second-year right tackle Brandon Shell has used Beachum as an invaluable resource, picking the veteran’s brain about footwork, hand and head placement.

“It’s just small things that can better me as a player,” Shell said. “I always talk to him about back-side blocking.”

Beachum has become an important voice amid the Jets’ culture change. They need more players and people willing to embrace what he did long ago. The pursuit of knowledge should never end. 

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