Draft prospect went from bullied to buff with Don Beebe’s help


If you watch offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey working out at the Scouting Combine, you’d never believe he ever got bullied: He’s 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds and bench presses 225 pounds 28 times. But Gilkey says there was a time when he was a scrawny kid who didn’t belong on the football field — and it was a former NFL player who helped him turn it all around.

Howard Balzer of the Sports Xchange has a good profile of Gilkey, who is starting to draw attention from NFL teams after playing at a small school, Chadron State College. Gilkey got there after having a tough time at his first high school, then blossoming after transferring to a different high school — which just happened to have a football team coached by former Bills receiver Don Beebe.

“I was undersized and I was actually bullied and ostracized by my entire school,” Gilkey said. “Going into my freshman year, I had a heart operation — very simple, but it prevented me from playing in any sports and doing anything. So, I excelled academically. With that, some of the guys — especially on the football team and the upper cliques — distanced [themselves] from me because I wasn’t able to do the running in the summer and the workouts. . . . I was constantly bullied, constantly picked on. It was a very hard year. Really, I like to tell people that I was just the little redheaded, gingery, skinny-looking [kid]. I was pear-shaped. I had these wide hips and this skinny-looking upper body. I was just a prime target for many of the cruel kids.”

But transferring and working both with Don Beebe and his brother, Dave Beebe, made Gilkey realize he had a passion for football. It also helped that a growth spurt had him up to 240 pounds. By his senior year he was good enough that small colleges wanted him, and Dave Beebe told him he’d eventually be good enough to play in the NFL.

Now Gilkey is showing that his high school coaches had a reason to believe in him, and he says he wants to use his status as a pro athlete to reach out to bullied kids.

“I’m starting an anti-bullying campaign,” Gilkey said. “I have such a great opportunity to be proactive and be encouraging and be a strong force within the community of the west suburbs of Chicago. I plan on being proactive with schools and junior highs and YMCAs, and talking about bullying. I think I have a great position, being my size, and standing up and talking about my experience being bullied, being ostracized and being made fun of. People see me now and think, ‘How could this person ever be bullied?’ I have a great voice and great platform to share those experiences and share my faith, as well.”

Gilkey is viewed as a likely late-round pick. It remains to be seen whether he can make the transition from Chadron State to the NFL, but the team that drafts him will be getting an impressive young man.

18 responses to “Draft prospect went from bullied to buff with Don Beebe’s help

  1. I never understood the ‘anti-bullying’ campaigns. They fall on deaf ears. No one hears someone say ‘bullying people is bad! you shouldn’t do it!’ and goes ‘OHHHHHHH! I had no idea I was being hurtful!’.

    Being hurtful is the whole point. It makes the other person feel bigger for doing it.

  2. Danny Woodhead, RB for the Pats, succesfully made the transition from Chadron State to the NFL. Great 3rd down and change of pace back for the Pats.

  3. Woot! Chadron State in western Nebraska. Woodhead didn’t have any troubles adjusting and many every single team underestimated him for being too small. Best of luck to this kid.

  4. Garrett started an anti-bullying campaign. By going back to his high school and stuffing all the bullies in their own lockers. With their shorts pulled up over their shoulders. It’s been effective so far.

  5. I disagree about the ineffectiveness of anti-bullying campaigns. The thing is this – they’re not designed to convince bullies. I agree that these campaigns don’t really work on them. They sometimes do, though, work on bystanders, and that’s where they pay off. They aren’t game-changers, but they’re culture changers, and if some wealthy athlete wants to bankroll one, I’m all for it.

  6. Back in the 90’s the Buffalo Bills played an exhibition game at Williams-Bryce stadium in Columbia, SC. My brother somehow ended up sitting next to Jim Kelly’s brother during the game and somehow made it into the locker room afterwards. He said he witnessed this guy getting all the Bills to sign a football to auction off at his bar to help raise money for a local kid’s chemotherapy treatment. All of the Bils gave their signature….except Don Beebe. He refused. Ever since then, Don Beebe is just known as DB in the rare times he’s mentioned in our circle.

  7. As big as he is now I highly doubt whoever was bullying him before would have the testicular fortitude to do it today

  8. The 250 pound over weight boy in my elementary and high school classes had successful thyroid surgery and is now 225 ripped nasty ass . No one says nothing around him now.They value their stupid former big mouth lives. !

  9. Here’s how to understand anti-bullying campaigns:

    They give kids being bullied the means to speak up, and they are just as much about educating the faculty of schools as the kids so that when the bullied kids DO speak up something is done to protect them.

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