After graduating, he joined the Redskins as a free-agent safety but was released in camp. The next season he tried out with the L.A. Chargers in the AFL, and he lasted six exhibition games. Two years later he tried Norm Van Brocklin's Minnesota Vikings, but during camp he decided to end his playing career for good.
"I never felt disappointed," he says. "I loved being around football. I knew that's how I wanted to make my living; I just didn't know where. Scouting wasn't very developed then. The time I spent in those camps, though, was invaluable."
In 1961 he married Larae Rich. It was time to go to work. He tried coaching for a year as a graduate assistant at Cal Poly. Then came a succession of odd jobs. First he sold insurance. Then he peddled pharmaceuticals ("It was awful," he says) and chemical supplies ("even worse") before starting his own airplane paint-stripping business.
In 1963, Kansas City head scout Don Klosterman hired Beathard as a part-time scout with the Chiefs. When Al Davis had his brief run as AFL commissioner, he hired Beathard as a scout. Three months later Beathard became a full-time scout with the Chiefs.
In 1968 he was back with Van Brocklin as a scout for the Atlanta Falcons, and four years later Don Shula hired him to head the scouting department in Miami. Joining the Dolphins was a tough decision for Beathard. As the West Coast scout for the Falcons, he could spend time at home in Manhattan Beach. Jamie, the youngest of his four children, had been born in 1968. In 1971, Beathard and Larae divorced, but he still saw his kids when he wasn't on the road. Now he would have to move to Miami. The Dolphins offered him $25,000 a year, a big increase over the $18,000 he was making with Atlanta. He told Shula he would take the job only if his travel schedule allowed him to get back to California as often as possible. Shula, a serious family man, agreed.
"One difference between Bobby and the other guys that I've worked for, "says Charley Casserly, an assistant general manager for the Redskins, "is that they would make us go on the road for two to three weeks at a time. One of the first things Bobby told his scouts was, "You'll get home every weekend, whether you're in Virginia or California.' "
The guys who remember Beathard from his beach days were not surprised by his climb up the NFL ladder. "Bobby could look beyond a 4.4 time or a 39-inch vertical jump and tell you if the guy was a player," says Jon Arnett, an old beach buddy and former Pro Bowl halfback for the Los Angles Rams. "Any scout can clock or take a tape and measure a jump, which is what 90 percent of them do. All of us knew Bobby would find the real competitive guys, because he was so competitive himself."
In 1978, six months after he was named general manager of the Redskins, Beathard remarried. He had met Christine Van Handel, who was a flight attendant at the time, on a trip seven years earlier. She remembered their meeting; he didn't. "We started talking," says Christine. "He said, 'Look, I'd like to take you out, but I don't want you to think I'm just a guy who goes around picking up stewardesses. Here's my parents' phone number. They'll tell you I'm all right.' Three weeks after I met him I called my sister. I told her, 'Some day I'm going to marry this person.' "
The wedding took place at a mutual friend's house in Marina del Rey. It was late getting started. The guys were all upstairs in front of the TV. Christine came up to ask when the ceremony would start. "Halftime," they said. They were watching a Raiders-Rams exhibition game. "Fastest wedding ceremony I'd ever seen," says Grossman. "By the time we got back upstairs the band was still on the field."
Beathard came to the Skins with impressive credentials. In his last four years at Miami, 23 of the 28 players he drafted in the first six rounds made the team. But in Washington he found a team that had gone six years without a draft choice in the first three rounds, a legacy of the George Allen era.