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Lett nods. Another piece of the Beebe puzzle is falling into place. Asked earlier why he had agreed to the meeting, Lett had answered, "To figure out why this guy was chasing me." Lett had already gathered some intelligence on Beebe. The word from Buffalo strong safety Henry Jones—whose agent, Mike Claiborne, also represents Lett—was that Beebe practices with such intensity that it occasionally ticks off his teammates. The story of the abortive Bear tryout helps to flesh out Beebe's character: Anyone clueless enough to try to talk his way onto an NFL team without so much as a season of college football experience is the kind of person who would sprint 90 yards—after his teammates had already begun walking off the field—to prevent a touchdown in a lost-cause game.
We are beginning to realize that Beebe lacks 1) the ability to go less than full speed and 2) the ability to discern the impossible from the improbable. After being rebuffed by Tobin, Beebe returned to Western Illinois in 1986 and endured another fall camp, only to learn that because of insufficient transfer credits from Aurora, he was ineligible. After a semester at a junior college he transferred back to Western. In the spring of '87, a Dallas Cowboy scout visited the campus to time seniors in the 40. Beebe happened upon them while in his street clothes and asked if he could run. Barefoot, he ran a 4.3.
"Who are you?" asked the scout.
After that season Beebe's NCAA eligibility was used up. He transferred to Chadron State, an NAIA school, where Brad Smith, a former Western Illinois coach, had recently taken the head coaching job. After playing a season at Chadron, Beebe ran a 4.3 for a scout named Bill Giles, who said, "Kid, I gotta get you in the combine." He did. Beebe was the fastest wide receiver in Indianapolis—the fastest player there, other than Deion Sanders. After that, 21 teams sent scouts to Chadron. He was Buffalo's top pick—a third-rounder—in the '89 draft.
"Damn!" says Lett, "I thought I did it the hard way."
He did. Lett grew up in Fairhope, Ala., a quiet burg of 5,000 on Mobile Bay. When he was 16 his father, "a huge man," says Lett, died of heart problems. "That's when I got off the track, as far as school," he says. Lett signed with Auburn but scored a 14 on his ACT exam. He needed a 15 to be admitted. After two seasons at Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Miss., he was wooed by New Mexico State, but he, too, had a problem with transfer credits. Scratch New Mexico State.
A friend of Lett's was playing at Emporia State. An assistant there, Reuben Rice, offered Lett a partial scholarship and soon regretted it. Lett reported at a jiggly 305 pounds and was bench-pressing only about 220. But Lett played his way into shape. After a torrid junior year he injured his right knee and missed his first four games as a senior. He was not invited to any senior all-star games or the scouting combines.
The Cowboys' selection of Lett in the '91 draft came as a complete surprise—not only to Lett, but also to his agent at the time, Mike Racy. Several hours after he was drafted, Lett got a call from Racy. "Heard anything?" the agent asked. "Uh, yeah, Mike," said Lett. "The Cowboys took me in the seventh round."
After spending 11 weeks of his rookie season on injured reserve, Lett was activated in late November for a game against the Washington Redskins. "Before my first play my hand was trembling when I got into my stance," he says. Hoping to fool the rookie, the Redskins ran a counter trap at him, and Lett stuffed running back Earnest Byner after a one-yard gain. By the beginning of last season he was splitting time with Russell Maryland, the overall No. 1 pick in that '91 draft.
Lett's story is a good one. Beebe one-ups him. In the second series of Beebe's NFL career, in a nationally televised game against the Houston Oilers, quarterback Jim Kelly called a play in which Beebe was to run a curl. "If he presses you," Kelly said to Beebe in the huddle, "take him deep." When Houston cornerback Chris Dishman came up to play bump-and-run, Beebe streaked past him and caught a 63-yard touchdown pass.