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Memory Lane: Jim Beverly, part of 'Kingsport Connection,' was a two-time All-Southern Conference center at ETSU

Bill Lane • Jul 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Born: Dec. 20, 1976

Where: Kingsport

Residence: Brevard, N.C.

High School/Colleges: Sullivan North/East Tennessee State, Texas A&M

Then: Jim Beverly held every ETSU weight-lifting record when he graduated. He is still the strongest athlete in Buccaneers history.

He was a two-time All-Southern Conference center and part of the “Kingsport Connection,’’ which included Sullivan Central’s Travis Crusenberry and Sullivan South’s Sam Haynie.

Beverly played on an ETSU team that went 10-2 in the regular season and played against Montana in the Bucs’ last postseason game.

He was a John Robert Bell Award winner for character and got chosen as a permanent team captain. At North, where he played offensive and defensive tackle under Coy Harris, Beverly had received a similar honor — the Randall Ketron Award.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Beverly bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times for NFL scouts, tying the all-time combine record at Indianapolis. This made him the strongest offensive lineman in the nation eligible for the 2000 draft.

Beverly signed with the Carolina Panthers and spent three weeks in training camp with the NFL team. They evaluated him at tackle and guard.

After being released, he signed with the Frankfort (Germany) Galaxy of NFL Europe. Beverly was then traded to the Barcelona Dragons, which turned out to be a big break. He got to play in the 2001 World Bowl at Amsterdam.

“NFL Europe is a farm league for players, coaches and referees,’’ Beverly said. “You get housing, transportation and a decent salary.’’

Beverly, while awaiting an invitation for a second year in NFL Europe, played Arena League football with the Cape Fear Wildcats . He went down with a knee injury just a few days before officially getting called back.

After three knee surgeries, he ended his NFL quest.

“I felt like I was going to lose a step when I didn’t have a step to lose,’’ Beverly said. “I didn’t have any million-dollar contracts waiting on me. I was ready to move on and try coaching.’’

Upon his arrival at ETSU in 1996, he was the team’s strongest player as a redshirt freshman. He became known for his hard work and won all four of the annual “Iron Buc’’ awards for offseason weight training.

He bench-pressed 225 pounds 18 times as a true freshman — the minimum number to be considered as a lineman in the NFL. Each time he broke a record, Beverly requested a drug test so there would be no question as to its legitimacy.

At North, Beverly’s work ethic came to the forefront. He was a three-year starter on the line, and played on the school’s first team to go 8-2 in the regular season and in the Golden Raiders’ first playoff game. He also was on the only North team to beat Tennessee High. Beverly blocked five passes as a senior.

He earned all-conference and All-Northeast Tennessee accolades. He threw the discus, placing fourth in the TSSAA track and field meet. Beverly was accorded all-state honors in both football and track.

He participated in indoor track at ETSU for three seasons, shot- putting and throwing the 35-pound hammer.

Beverly’s heart size became obvious in the 1998 football season. On the second play in a game against The Citadel, his hand was broken when stepped on. He stayed in the game and played every down without making a bad snap.

ETSU was playing at Mississippi State the next weekend. Beverly suffered a severe ankle sprain in practice, and he required crutches to get on the bus. He rode all the way to Starkville — a 13-hour trip — with his foot in a bucket of ice. Trainer Jerry Robertson taped him heavily and Beverly played the entire game against a competitive Southeastern Conference team.

His career, though aborted before he could really prove himself, took Beverly around the world.

He spent a total of three years coaching at high schools in Florida and Texas and five collegiate seasons at ETSU, Pikeville, Charleston Southern and Brevard. He coached four seasons of Arena League football — with the Laredo Law, Amarillo Dusters and Arkansas Twisters.

“Arena football is a lot simpler game,’’ he said. “It’s football at basketball speed.’’

Beverly has written two books on training drills and techniques for offensive linemen, and is working on a third that emphasizes motivation.

“I’ve been blessed,’’ he said. “I got to do everything I set out to do. ETSU was the best of anywhere I played. It was like a kick in the stomach when they closed the program.

“We were part of the have-nots but we were becoming a top-tier team, playing Marshall, Tulsa, Toledo, Miami, Mississippi State and East Carolina.’’

Beverly appreciated the three years of exposure he got in pro ball. “If you’re not in the NFL, you only make enough money to survive. It’s as good as any summer job you’ll ever get without a degree.’’

Now: At ETSU, he played two years each for Mike Cavan and Paul Hamilton. Beverly is now the offensive line coach for Hamilton at Brevard.

“Paul is first-class,’’ Beverly said. “He started Brevard football from zero and runs a solid program.’’

Beverly constantly gets offers to coach high school ball.

“I want to hold onto a college job as long as I can,’’ he said. “I was in third grade when I learned people actually made a living in football.’’

Bill Lane is a Times-News sports writer. E-mail him at blane@timesnews.net.

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