Benton Panther offensive and defensive lineman Beau Belcher will have a busy 2017-18 school year. The 6-1 265 lb. senior looks more like Marvel Comics’ Thor with his long blonde hair, and it may require energy equal to that of the god of thunder to keep all of his responsibilities in line.
Not only does Beau have to meet all of the on-the-field challenges that come with playing on both sides of the football, but he must also get ready to help lead a team that will be heavy on underclassmen and light on experience.
“There’s always some pressure that comes with being viewed as a leader or role model, but I’m certainly not going to let it bother me,” Beau said. “I’ve been doing what I do for years, and I believe the key is leading by example. Coaches have always been good teachers for me, and I’ve listened to them along the way. My parents are also both really important when it comes to keeping me in line.”
The Panthers wrapped last season with a 9-5 record and a playoff loss to the Russellville Cyclones. It was a year that saw some success for a program under second-year head coach Brad Harris.
“It’s really interesting to consider how far this program has come,” Beau said. “I remember going to watch Benton games when my brothers played and saw them get pounded, but things are different now. When we come in, we believe we’re in every game and are playoff contenders every year. It’s nice to have a winning mentality, and Coach Harris and the staff have had so much to do with that.”
And Coach Harris has been equally impressed with his young team and Beau’s willingness to step in and help in a new role when needed.
“I like our team, and it’s exciting to see a future that’s so bright,” he said. “Not only are we relying on our seniors for leadership, but I’ve also been impressed with what players like Beau have done to help us be successful.
“Beau was always on the defensive line, and we will certainly ask him to do that again this season. But we had a need on the offensive line last year. He took the challenge and became a solid player for us.”
Coach Harris says it wasn’t just Beau’s athletic skill that helped him make the transition. It was also his intelligence and ability to adapt. “He mixes those two so well on the field. He grasps concepts quickly, makes the changes he needs and can help others do their jobs, too.”
The truth is, intelligence might be the most important skill he’s spent years developing. “My family believes education is one of the most important parts of growing up,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed the process of learning and am grateful that my parents raised me that way.”
Beau enters his last year of high school ranked second in his senior class with a 4.2 grade point average. Most recently, he scored a 32 on the ACT exam and is already considering where to go to college.
“I haven’t made up my mind, but it’s going to come down to what’s the right fit,” he said. “I think my mom would be happy if I stayed a little closer to home, but I think my dad would be ok with me going a little further.”
Football could be a possibility on the college level, and Beau is already looking beyond the game to what he might pursue as a career.
“My dream job would be as an orthopedic surgeon,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated watching surgeries and the videos that you see online. I think that would be a great career, and it would keep me close to sports.”
For now, Beau and the Panthers have a tough 2017 season in front of them. One game they know that is critically important is the Salt Bowl against the Bryant Hornets, which they lost last year 10-7.
“This will be my third Salt Bowl, my final shot. All of the seniors on our team see it this way.