Cole Beasley has caught 91 passes, already made more than $5.44 million and become a favorite of Dallas Cowboys fans. But what might not have been ….
Beasley left camp for two days his rookie season, citing personal reasons. If he had quit playing, Beasley probably would have returned to SMU, finished school and become an assistant coach at an area high school. But no one calls him Coach Beasley these days.
Instead, he answers to “Bease” or “11” or even “The Paper Boy.”
“He’s just a really good football player and has been a good football player right from the start,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously undersized and looks like the paper boy coming in — despite the beard that he has. But right from the start of his rookie minicamp, he was someone who showed up to us, and you could tell he just had a good feel and instinct for playing, very quarterback-friendly, makes a lot of little plays, makes a lot of big plays. Just has a knack for playing the game.”
Beasley, 26, has no interest in rehashing his brief retirement. He has moved on, becoming the team’s big little man.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder has become so valuable to the Cowboys that they re-signed him to a four-year, $13.6 million contract this off-season while letting Dwayne Harris leave for the Giants in free agency.
“I think the great thing about football in my life span is that we really have to be careful estimating the size of the player by his height and weight,” special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said. “There’s no way to measure Beasley by what you see. You can’t get inside him, because if we did, that heart would encompass his entire body. He knows how to get hit, how not to get hit, knows how to finish, makes great decisions for the team. I don’t see any problems with Beasley.”
In Beasley’s case, size doesn’t matter. He can more than carry his weight as the team’s slot receiver and special-teams player.
Thirty of Beasley’s 37 catches last season went for first downs, with 11 coming on third down. He has earned Tony Romo’s trust as a security blanket along with tight end Jason Witten.
“That’s the funny part,” Romo said. “When Cole was young, he was a mismatch. It just takes time for people to learn everything. He’s done a great job. He’s a tough matchup. We’ve got a few guys like that, which makes it a lot more enjoyable to play quarterback. He took that mental step. Once he did, it was game on to him.”
Beasley caught 75.5 percent of the passes thrown his way last season, and, according to Pro Football Focus, he was the only receiver without a dropped pass among the 90 NFL players with at least 46 targets.
It’s among the things that make Beasley an important cog in the Cowboys’ offense.
“Everybody just looks at him and says he’s got quickness,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “But he’s got a lot more than that. First of all, he’s a very instinctive football player. He’s a smart football player. So when the ball turns over, he has great recognition skills on what the defense is doing, and he knows how to react quickly. He’s got very good play strength, and what I mean by that is even though he’s little, at 180 pounds, he’s strong. So when defenders try to push him around, he doesn’t really go. He can break tackles.
“The third thing is he’s got phenomenal hands. He’s got hands as good as I’ve ever seen. There’s this big debate in our room because everybody thinks Dez Bryant has the best hands on the team, and Bease gets offended by that, because he thinks he does. Besides his incredible short area change of direction and suddenness that everybody notices, he’s got these other traits that go along with it and make him a special player.”
Beasley has studied Ravens receiver Steve Smith, who, at 5-9, 185 pounds, has a build similar to Beasley’s. Smith, who has announced his retirement after this season, has 915 catches for 13,262 yards and 73 touchdowns in 14 seasons.
Beasley said Smith “plays way bigger than he is.” That statement could describe Beasley, too, as he continues to grow in his game.
“I still feel I have a lot to prove,” Beasley said. “I’ve got a huge chip on my shoulder. I still have doubters every day. I’m going to be out here working like I just got here.”
Cole Beasley has gone from undrafted free agent to deadly slot receiver in just three years. Here are some of his career numbers:
1 kickoff return
6 career touchdowns
10 punt returns (3 fair catches)
10.1 reception average
45 longest reception (yds.)