WEST LAFAYETTE – Dwayne Beckford had his last shot and he blew it. There's zero chance that the senior linebacker will ever play football for Purdue again.
Call it four strikes -- at least -- and you're out. Beckford has four arrests since June of 2011, all for drug or alcohol related offenses. In mid-July he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, including operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and was sentenced to 30 days community corrections, 335 days of supervised probation and 180 days to an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. The final strike came with his arrest on Monday on two charges of possession of paraphernalia and possession of a synthetic.
Coach Danny Hope wasn't willing to call it over yet (“Right now he's indefinitely suspended,” Hope said), but after suspending Beckford for spring practice and taking away his scholarship (Beckford paid for online classes from Vincennes University to stay eligible in the spring), enough has to be enough.
“In all fairness to Dwayne, we want to make sure that we allow the legal system to do everything that they have to do,” Hope said. “Obviously, his future as a Boilermaker is very questionable because my marching orders to him were to avoid any compromising situations or being around any compromising situations. There's a lot of information we have to get a handle on.”
Beckford seemed sincere earlier this month during media day when he said, “I've learned that you've got to grow up… I just have to make the right choices. If I get a chance to make a wrong choice, don't do it. If I get to that point, make the right choices.”
He got to that point, and the wrong choice won -- again. That suggests a far deeper problem than just failing to learn from previous mistakes.
Beckford was on pace to graduate in December with a psychology degree. He'd previously said that if this didn't work out, he'd return to his hometown of Irvington, N.J., and try “to finish school.”
Senior defensive tackle Kawann Short said Beckford's suspension won't be a distraction.
“Our job is to keep everybody together. We'll adjust. Since Dwayne is out, whoever comes in will be ready to start.”
Senior Antwon Higgs and sophomore Sean Robinson (a former quarterback) were set to take over Beckford's middle linebacker spot for Saturday's season opener against Eastern Kentucky. Hope said junior Joe Gilliam is also likely to see action at the position.
“We still have good players at that spot,” Hope said. “Dwayne wasn't out there this spring and we were getting better as a team. We certainly appreciate his work and effort, but other guys will compete and play well. We'll win without him.”
Hope had known Beckford since he was 16 being recruited by former Boiler coach Joe Tiller Hope had supported him even when Beckford's mistakes continued to add up. A cynic would say this was because of Beckford's talent (he was Purdue's leading returning tackler, with 91) at a position the Boilers lacked quality depth, but Hope has always been a coach who stuck by players if he believed they “were worth having around,” and if they had “all the redeeming qualities somewhere inside you're looking for.”
Hope said this incident wouldn't change his approach with his players.
“If we have certain issues that are team issues, there could be a place, for instance, that might not be best for our team to patronize,” he said. “I can institute a law to make that place off limits.
“If I'm concerned that the team needs a little time to think before they tweet to the world where they're at emotionally, I might cool that Twitter stuff for a little bit. But I'm not going to change who I am or why I got into coaching.
“I got into coaching for two reasons. No. 1, I didn't think I could live without football, and No. 1, I like working with young people. When it's all said and done, our job is to impact their lives.
“Obviously, we have to win games. The magnitude of the undertaking at this level is unbelievable. When it's all said and done, I'm in it because I love football and I love working with young people.
“Our prayers are with Dwayne and hope that things work out for him. I believe they will. I hope that soon he'll get his diploma and be paying taxes.”
As for Beckford, consider what he also said during media day: “To have made the mistakes I've made and to have this opportunity really means a lot to me. It showed me the kind of man Coach Hope is. He's a man who sticks by his word.”
Unfortunately for Beckford, he couldn't stick to his.