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Cardinals OT Kelvin Beachum focuses fight against inequality on the basics

A 2016 photo of Kelvin Beachum, Jr. with students from World Vision's Agua Blanca project and peer to peer tutoring program in San Juan, Honduras. (Courtesy World Vision/Eugene Lee)

Skimming the social media feeds of Kelvin Beachum for a minute would help you understand that the Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle doesn’t limit the scope of his voice.

He’s been vocal over the past year as the coronavirus and the fight against racial injustices have put the country’s problems more under the spotlight.

This past July, Beachum wrote an opinion column for USAToday.com, calling for the senate to pass the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, a federal bill that would make lynching a hate crime.

Through his Twitter account, he wrote a thread on the importance of Women’s History Month.

Generally, Beachum speaks out to fight against inequalities.

Though he’s been involved in numerous projects for years, he’s lately been fighting for the very basic levels of human requirements: water.

His perspective, of course, comes from his own life experience.

Beachum is a proud Christian and Texan who grew up in “rural” Mexia, Texas, an hour and a half south of Dallas.

He grew up under the poverty line, and his family was supported by government-based programs.

Looking back, his goal was about finding an avenue to leave the town where, as he says, there were only two areas of opportunity.

“The workforce there is is either agricultural or working at the Mexia State Supported Living Center, which is a state institution for mentally challenged individuals,” he said. “Those are the only two options you got.”

Football was that avenue out.

Beachum, rated by 247 Sports as a two-star guard prospect and the 146th overall guard in the 2007 class, enrolled at Southern Methodist.

He was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers after, as Beachum said, then-offensive line coach Sean Kugler pushed for the pick. Beachum made five starts his first season and now has started 115 of his 120 NFL games played.

On the field last year, he was arguably one of Arizona’s most reliable players. That’s why the Cardinals re-signed him to a two-year deal last week.

But off the field is where Beachum has evolved most.

“As I’ve been able to acquire wealth and acquire platform in the National Football League, [I’ve] been able to speak to some of the things I went through as a child, been able to speak to some of the things some families are still going through today,” he said Monday, which was World Water Day.

When it comes to the issue of water availability, he’s spent the past five-plus years working closely with World Vision, an organization the tackle says has formed an “authentic” partnership with him and his faith-based charity work.

In 2016, Beachum traveled to Honduras and met communities where water access and education helped support rural communities. He wrote on the importance of water for the organization’s website afterward, mentioning the impact a water project had on one specific community.

It’s part of a World Vision water project and was built by the parents of students, family members, and other community members. The kids took a lot of pride and ownership in that. Now 8,700 people up and down the mountain have access to clean water. Eventually, the project will reach more than 200,000.

The sacrifice of the people who worked on this project is unbelievable. For months, they slept nearby and worked during the day, all to produce a better life for the young people. Growing up, my dad would wake up at 4:45 a.m. to run his automotive business. When I got older, I asked him why he did what he did — long hours, sacrifice, no sleep, little food. He said, “Because I wanted a better life for my kids.”

The people who built the water project not only gave their children access to clean water but access to a better life. Clean water provides ways for people to thrive; it trickles down into all aspects of life.

The pandemic only made Beachum focus more on the clean water availability issue.

The offensive tackle knows the numbers.

According to World Vision, a 10th of people globally don’t have access to clean water, an essential to practice safe handwashing. An estimated 3 billion don’t have access to basic sanitary handwashing facilities, according to the organization.

Beachum does not just speak on the statistics.

For years, he’s been on the frontlines fighting for change to help those underrepresented. He’s been to Washington D.C. to discuss policy.

“I would actually go to policymakers and senators and congressmen and women, staffers, to go and advocate on potential policy,” he said. “I can say recently what I did a couple years ago was the Global Food Security Act (of 2016), which impacts people on a global scale, not just here in America.”

After signing his two-year deal with the Cardinals last Wednesday, Beachum joked that he’d put on a suit and gotten out of his shell for a day to take care of some football items.

He was going back into his shell, he said. Beachum had other things to attend to.

Certainly, the man from Mexia isn’t keeping to his shell outside of football.

“Now I’ve been able to expand my mind and see opportunities to give back as I’ve left and seen what I came from and seen different things. I’ve grown up as an individual,” he said.

Extra point

Beachum said last week that Kuger, the Cardinals offensive line coach and run game coordinator, is the main reason why he joined Arizona last offseason and why he re-signed this past week.

The tackle, whose Twitter profile lists him as an “LT for @NFL,” added that he wouldn’t play on the right side for any other coach.

He gave one anecdote when asked to tell a story about Kugler that represents why he respects the assistant coach so much.

Beachum pointed to the Cardinals’ final play last year on Nov. 19 in Seattle.

Arizona trailed 28-21 and found itself on 4th-and-10 at the Seahawks’ 27-yard line when Beachum gave up a sack of Kyler Murray.

“We ended up losing in Seattle and that game was the first sack that I had given up all year,” Beachum said. “(Kugler) came up to me after the game: ‘I would take you doing that exact set any other time’ … I just didn’t execute on that particular play. I beat myself on that particular play.

“For a coach of his caliber and his stature to still instill confidence — even though I’m an older player — to be able to come to you after a game and be able to have that confidence means a lot. … I think that really speaks to who he is as a person, who he is as a coach.”


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