GATE CITY — Tom Beasley has always beaten the odds.
His persistence and blessings in life led him down a path that included a 10-year NFL career and two Super Bowl rings along the way.
“I have been very, very fortunate,” Beasley said. “I’ve been very, very blessed. I was given incredible opportunities and God has put incredible people in my path.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Beasley grew up in the coalfields of McDowell County, West Virginia, and attended Northfork High School.
“I didn’t watch a lot of football when I was growing up,” Beasley said. “I was usually outside. I love to hunt in the fall and that’s what I did a lot. And I played a lot of sandlot ball.”
Beasley also spent his time on the small school’s football field with practice during the week and games on Friday nights.
He played on both the offensive and defensive lines for Northfork and handled the punting chores.
“I don’t think I came off the field very much,” Beasley remembered.
However, he didn’t have great expectations when it came to football. After all, Northfork was a basketball school.
The Blue Demons boys teams won 10 state championships in a 14-year span from 1971-84.
Still, Beasley was enough of a standout to get notices from Virginia Tech and Marshall, just a couple of years after a tragic plane crash killed almost everyone connected with the Thundering Herd program.
“Those were the only two schools that contacted me. I never heard from West Virginia,” he said.
Beasley’s high school coach, John Brandt, wanted him to go to Marshall.
“... He thought I’d have a much better chance of playing,” Beasley recalled.
Instead, Beasley chose Virginia Tech and the future NFL player had to earn his way onto the Hokies squad in the fall.
“I was tall, but I weighed about 210 pounds, which was too small for an offensive lineman. They tried me at all the positions on the line,” Beasley said. “I was about the sixth string offensive tackle.
“We had intra-squad scrimmages and I didn’t even play in the scrimmages.”
However, after a season-opening game with Wake Forest, several defensive linemen were banged up. After another defensive lineman was injured in a scrimmage, Beasley was told to get in on the defensive side of the ball.
“The coach didn’t really know who I was. He had to look at the tape on my helmet to know my last name,” Beasley said. “There were about 10 scrimmage plays left and I was in on the tackle nine times.”
Two games later, Beasley started at defensive tackle and continued starting on the Hokies’ defense for the remainder of his four seasons there.
He recorded 78 tackles, 11 for loss, in his senior season.
An All-America honorable mention, Beasley was selected to play in the Blue-Gray game and the American Bowl.
He was inducted into the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame in 1988.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Beasley’s climb through the football ranks continued after college, when he was drafted as the NFL’s 60th overall pick and in the third round by Pittsburgh.
He played seven years with the Steelers with some of the biggest defensive names in the game.
“I was basically drafted to replace (Mean) Joe Greene,” Beasley recalled. “He was the best defensive tackle in the game, period. I wear a size 15 shoe, but I never filled those shoes.”
Greene stayed with Pittsburgh three more years and Beasley learned as much as he could from the Hall of Famer.
“I learned more football from him than any coach I ever had,” Beasley said of Greene. “He was the best.”
Beasley moved to defensive end and came into the Steelers’ left side when L.C. Greenwood was injured.
It was his second year in the league, and he knew he was surrounded by gridiron greatness.
“There I was, I had Joe Greene to my right, Jack Hamm to my left and Jack Lambert behind me,” Beasley said. “They were great communicators. They knew where the ball was going before it was ever snapped. They knew if it was going to be a run or a pass. It opened my eyes to something that was pretty special and unique.”
Beasley earned Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in 1978 and 1979.
He stayed in Pittsburgh until 1984, when he ruptured his right hamstring and was cut by the Steelers.
“They cut me with the intention of resigning me when I was ready to play again,” Beasley said. “But I was ready for something new.”
After he was cut, Beasley got a call from Washington. And when he was ready to play, he joined the Redskins and spent three years with the team before retiring after the 1986 season.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Beasley moved his family to Annapolis, Maryland, after his retirement from the game and went to work for a John Deere dealership.
After four years, with his children getting older, Beasley moved the family to Gate City, his wife’s hometown.
Beasley met his wife, Margie, when they were students at Virginia Tech.
“My life has never been the same since,” he said.
His wife’s sister also was attending Tech and dating another Gate City native and Tech football player: Bill Houseright.
Little did the four realize that it was the start of producing another generation of athletes at Gate City.
Beasley’s son Chad played at Virginia Tech and went on to the NFL. Houseright had three sons play for the Hokies, while Jeremy Houseright was a standout athlete at Gate City and played basketball at UVA Wise.
Jeremy Houseright is the current head coach at Gate City.
As for Beasley, he’s enjoying a quieter lifestyle.
He likes having the chance to attend the reunions of the Super Bowl championship teams in Pittsburgh. But he said his biggest joy comes from being a husband, a father and a grandfather.
“It’s been a blessing,” he said.