Some of us love our alma mater enough to donate some money once in a while. Maybe a couple hundred bucks. Maybe four figures for the truly devoted.
Then there's Zane Beadles.
The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman decided to give the University of Utah about a quarter of his 2014 base salary.
"It's something I've known I wanted to do since I left school," Beadles said Monday.
Actually, before he left school.
Beadles spent a lot of time in the training room during his career as a Ute. He got to know then-head athletic trainer Paul Silvestri (now at Florida) and current head athletic trainer Eric Yochem nearly as well as he knew his teammates, if not better. On one late afternoon, he made a promise to them that if he ever made it in the NFL, he'd come back to them with some help.
"It was at the end of a practice day," Yochem recalled Monday, "and Zane was one of the last ones left in the training room, just icing down. I remember him saying that. I remember Paul and I saying we're going to hold him to it."
To say he followed through on that promise is an understatement. Beadles' pledge to a sports medicine center is the largest single donation by a former Utah football player in the school's history. And the building where Beadles offered that vow will be named after the player who made it.
"I didn't know what to say, actually," Yochem said.
Beadles is something to aspire to not only for his generosity, but because of his durability. He started every single game in high school, and he missed only one game in college. Since he was drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos in 2010, he's missed only one game. Two missed games in his entire football life is pretty remarkable for an offensive lineman who played both sides of the ball as a prep.
But that doesn't mean he was pain-free. Hardly.
"He was always a guy [known] for doing cold tubs after practice," Yochem said. "He saw the value in that. Doing the stretching. Using the recovery techniques."
So the message Beadles wants to get across isn't just about gratitude, though that's certainly part of it. He wants players who come after him to practice preventative medicine rather than wait for something bad to happen.
"I've always been big on it and some guys aren't so big on it," Beadles said. "Hopefully that does [send a message]. To me it's a very important thing. You can't be at your best when you're not on the field."
At least some of the money will go to an anti-gravity treadmill. That will allow both healthy and rehabbing players (from all Utah sports) to run without putting extra pressure on ligaments and joints. It's cardio and strength without the agony. Yochem said it will "unweight" the athletes: "It's a game-changer for us," he said.
There will also be money for an offensive line scholarship.
It's not only Beadles helping out, either. Other former Utes in the NFL, including Alex Smith and Steve Smith, have given a total of more than $1.6 million to the school recently. It's just that Beadles has stood out.
"I had no idea it would be the largest by any former athlete," he said.
Beadles just signed a five-year deal in Jacksonville worth $30 million ($12.45 million guaranteed), cashing in on four healthy years with the Broncos. His job now is to help his fellow Jags linemen get to their second deals. Beadles is a relative dinosaur in Duval County, at 27 the oldest of the projected starting linemen by far. In his eyes, he's paying Utah back for preparing him to survive long enough to make all that NFL money.
"I knew I'd do it when I got to the place in my life when I could," Beadles said. "That place became now."
It's a rare and refreshing attitude from an iron man with a soft spot.
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