Adversity spurs South Kitsap’s Beard to greater heights | Prep Football

Michael Beard has emerged as a senior at linebacker. - Photo courtesy Jim Robertson
Michael Beard has emerged as a senior at linebacker.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Jim Robertson

He holds out the ring finger, cocked sideways, on his right hand.

For South Kitsap senior inside linebacker Michael Beard, it is an example of perseverance.

Beard broke the finger during a game last season. But he did not leave. When he tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his right shoulder in December at the Pacific Coast Tournament, the Wolves’ wrestling coaches told him he was finished. But he did not leave. Instead, he showed them he could raise his right arm above his shoulder.

“It was painful, but I don’t like losing,” said Beard, who missed the rest of the season after that match.

When Beard seeks inspiration in the face of adversity, he looks into the faces of his teammates. He sees their pain. Their fatigue. And it inspires him.

“When you look to your left or right, you’re playing for them,” Beard said. “You get pumped up by that.”

Perhaps no better example of that was Sept. 7 at Newport. It was perhaps the Wolves’ worst defensive performance of the year as they surrendered 414 rushing yards against the Knights. But even as Newport took a third-quarter lead, Beard kept reminding his teammates to remain confident. That means minimizing the negatives.

“You have to wipe it out and move onto the next play,” Beard said.

That eventually happened for South when senior cornerback Bryce Broome, who serves as a team captain along with quarterback Kevin Whatley, intercepted Isaac Dotson with about 30 seconds remaining to secure a 33-27 victory. Beard proceeded to carry Broome off the field.

“On the field, Michael Beard is our defensive captain,” Broome said. “He’s our middle linebacker. If something goes wrong, he’ll tell us that we’ve got to get a stop here.”

More often than not, Beard is contributing toward that. When Eric Canton took over as the Wolves’ coach in May, he transitioned the defense from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme. Beard said the defensive line has done a good job of “opening lanes” for him and his counterparts to make plays in the backfield.

“If an offense gets hit in the mouth on every play, they won’t want to run it,” he said.

Canton said he never has questioned Beard’s physicality and toughness. But he needed to develop consistency.

“Michael has been a pleasant surprise,” Canton said. “He has really, really played well for us and has gotten so much better each week. I think a lot of that is hard work and trusting his teammates and coaches.”

Beard attributes much of that to legendary South linebacker David Rill, who has worked with linebackers at times during practice. Beard said Rill has helped him improve his technique. Canton said some of that is Beard’s savvy.

“Just from the beginning of this season, he has done a lot better job of reading his keys,” he said. “He’s not peaking in the backfield and trying to guess what’s going on. He reads his keys and trusts them.”

That has been important for Beard as this is only his fifth season of playing football. He said his mother would not allow him to play until former Marcus Whitman Junior High wrestling coach Casey Robbins persuaded her to change her mind when Beard was in eighth grade.

“He begged my mom to let me play,” Beard said. “She did not want me to get hurt.”

This likely will be his final season. Beard said he aspires to be a forest firefighter after he graduates in June. For the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Beard, he hopes to eventually become a full-time firefighter with a goal in mind.

“If I could save someone’s life, I would be so proud,” he said. “There’s no point in living life if you don’t save someone else.”

Similar to football, where Beard knows the Wolves cannot afford to lose any more games if they want to advance to the playoffs, he aspires to eventually become a fire chief.

“If I do something, I want to be the best,” he said. “You shouldn’t settle for less.”

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