By Mike Pryson / Jackson Citizen Patriot
Father Duane Beauchamp has been offering spiritual and academic guidance to students on the Hillsdale College campus for the past 22 years.
This year, Beauchamp has added a rather unusual line to his list of duties at the college. He’s helping make sure the Chargers’ wide receivers are running their routes correctly and doing the homework necessary in the film room to be successful on the football field.
Beauchamp, a recently retired campus chaplain and longtime academic mentor for the football team, was added to the football staff as wide receivers coach this season.
The way Beauchamp sees it, this new coaching assignment is just his latest calling.
“I’m learning the language of football,” Beauchamp, 65, said. “I’m learning that people in all places, whether it’s football, churches or college campuses, can learn much if they stay disciplined.
“They can learn and understand, whether it’s from the discipline of watching films to better understand the opponent or if it’s from the discipline of daily prayer and Bible reading how the individual can improve their lives.”
Hillsdale football coach Keith Otterbein said Beauchamp, or “Father B” as he’s known around campus, has added an ingredient to the football coaching staff that has been missing.
“We wanted some more consistency coaching our wide receivers,” Otterbein said. “Coach (Barry) Fagan, our offensive coordinator, has been quarterbacks coach and wide receiver coach, and he’s been bouncing back and forth.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have some student coaches helping with our receivers, but there’s been no consistency. The fact that we could bring Father Beauchamp in and have him learn the game and add that consistency over a long period of time was something we were looking for.”
So far, the results have been impressive.
Hillsdale, sporting an 8-2 record heading into its regular-season finale Saturday against Tiffin, leads the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in several offensive categories. The team is first in scoring offense and first in passing yards.
Hillsdale receivers A.J. Kegg and Andre Holmes are 1-2 in the conference in pass receptions.
Kegg, a senior, leads the team with 65 receptions for 753 yards, while Holmes, a junior, is second with 61 receptions. Holmes is also second in the conference in receiving yards with 864.
“He helps out a lot of players academically and talks to them a lot about student life,” Kegg said. “I’ve known him on a first-name basis since my freshman year.
“I’ve seen a huge difference in him since the beginning of the season. He was pretty quiet on the sideline, but now he has no problem telling us when we cut off a route short or we ran the wrong route.”
Beauchamp is more than just a spiritual leader who happened to pick up a few football tips during his years working with athletes. He moved to Hillsdale in 1988 from Dallas, where he was a big fan of the old Southwest Conference in football.
“I think it’s been an eye-opening experience for him in terms of the intricacies of the game,” Otterbein said. “It’s not as easy as just run or pass.
“He’s always been a sports fan, particularly a football fan. It’s all just worked out that he wanted to be part of this, and we’re fortunate that it’s worked out that we could have him.”
Going even further back in the new assistant coach’s life, Beauchamp played football in college at Long Beach State, now California State University, Long Beach.
“When I was in college, I had been a receiver for a short period of time,” said Beauchamp, who is also the rector of the Holy Trinity Anglican Parish in Hillsdale. “I knew the position a bit.
“It is a specialty position, where athletes come in with a particular talent, and then it’s a matter of teaching them the aspects of the game that will help them continue to improve upon the talents that have already been given on to them.”
Beauchamp doesn’t see his coaching job as a short-time proposition. The decision of how long he stays on as coach, he says, is a question he can’t answer yet.
“I just try to do the will of my Father, and that’s what I’ve been about,” Beauchamp said. “When he says enough is enough, I’ll see where he wants to send me next.”