One-armed football player inspires Davis Darts

Friday , August 29, 2014 - 11:50 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

KAYSVILLE -- When Matt Beecher makes a special play on the football field for Davis High -- a tackle, fumble recovery, interception -- he thrusts his right arm into the night air in celebration.

And therein lies a story.

Beecher plays varsity football for the Davis Darts. He was even named one of the team’s four team captains for last week's opener with Bingham. He was the only junior selected, along with three seniors, chosen to wear the tradition-laden "Like No Other" wristband by players and coaches.

Beecher wore it on his right wrist.

Beecher is missing his left forearm just below the elbow.

Davis head coach Tyler Gladwell said the honor of wearing the “Like No Other” band is bestowed to "the player who has the best attitude, is positive and energetic, will help with drills and do anything to help the team get better in practice and prepare for the game."

For the team’s season opener, the choice seemed easy.

"To be one of the first four out of the tunnel, to hear the fans, the band and even the rain, was awesome, fantastic," Beecher said.

Beecher has been doing a lot of inspiring others of late -- from his teammates to his coaches to his parents.

Former Davis football coach Ryan Bishop, who recently resigned to take an administrative job with the Utah High School Athletic Association, spoke with Beecher during the summer. At his farewell meeting with the team, Bishop pulled Beecher aside and whispered to him "You inspire me."

Beecher was born Sept. 11, 1997, the son of Brian and Kristen Beecher. He shares the same birthday with his mother.

It was at that time when Beecher’s parents were told he was missing his left forearm just below the elbow. Suddenly, such simple things a child learns as he grows up -- things like tying his shoes or riding a bike -- would require a difficult learning curve.

His parents could shrink from the challenge of so many roadblocks, or adopt the family mantra of finding a way to get it done. The family decided to meet things head on and has greeted the obstacles in a special way.

When he was old enough, Beecher tried prosthetics -- three times in fact -- but he never latched onto the idea and stopped trying when he was 8 years old.

"He could always carry more toys with one hand than most kids could carry with two," his father Brian recalled.

Soon Beecher’s interest in sports began to develop. His parent oldest daughter played college soccer, and the next daughter ran track and is a cheerleader.

The entire family wanted to expose Beecher to as much as they could, to find out what his interests would be.

Beecher’s father Brian is an assistant golf pro at Valley View. He convinced his son to try golf -- with left-handed clubs as he needed his right arm to us on takeaway in the golf swing. Somewhat incredibly, Beecher shot a 50 -- a little more than boggie golf -- in a junior league round.

Beecher than gravitated to soccer and did "pretty well," he said, playing for a club team. Soon thereafter, Beecher also developed a love for football.

Kaysville Recreation League became the avenue for Beecher to develop his love. He started playing in sixth grade. He was delighted when the coach developed a drill where players were asked to catch the ball with one hand and all kept fumbling with it, except of course Beecher.

In seventh grade, Beecher faced another setback. Doctors diagnosed him with a heart murmur and kept him out of football for a year.

"It was like taking my other arm off," Beecher said. "I just sat in the car and cried."

Upon further evaluation, the doctors decided it was a rapid heartbeat and that Beecher would grow out of it by the time he reached 18 years old, so it was game on.

Beecher resumed his football career and also played on the Fairfield Junior High basketball team in eighth and ninth grade.

As a parent in the stands, Brian said he watches people on the edge of their seats when his son plays. "When something good happens, there is a little more excitement, a little more cheering," he said.

Beecher was the student body president at Fairfield and was voted 'First Falcon,' the most outstanding student of the year before moving on to Davis High.

He started as a boundary linebacker for the sophomore football team, which went 9-0. He recorded countless tackles, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions, including a pick six.

"It was a blast, a fun team, just a fun group of guys," said Beecher, a straight A student who wants to attend BYU on an academic or athletic scholarship.

He also runs track and throws the javelin.

On Friday, Beecher made a tackle on special teams. Immediately after the play, he jumped up from the artificial turf and raised his right arm, not only celebrating, but also reaching for the stars.

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