|Don Beebe stands smiling in front of the Aurora University scoreboard, where the Spartans have turned the clock to 2019.
Aurora athletics photo
Aurora University is pleased to announce NFL legend Don Beebe as the Spartans football new head coach.
Beebe replaces Rick Ponx, who was "relieved of his duties" immediately after the season, a department spokesperson told the Aurora Beacon-News. Ponx's program bounced back from a 1-9 mark in his first season and coached the team to a 20-30 record over the past five years.
A wide receiver in the NFL for nine years – including six Super Bowl appearances and one championship – Beebe is widely known for his "never-say-die" grit displayed in Super Bowl XXVII when he denied Leon Lett an easy touchdown.
"I am honored to coach AU football, drawing on my NFL, coaching and training experience and bringing it home where my roots are, where I was born and raised my family and still live," said Beebe, 53. "I knew mentoring kids was my calling when I retired and sports is my avenue to do that. I care about my players and want to instill in them the importance of never settling for mediocrity. I want our Spartan football players to think big. With hard work and commitment they can and will achieve great things."
After retiring from the NFL, Beebe founded House of Speed, in Aurora, which specializes in training athletes to perform better by enhancing speed and character. He also coached Aurora Christian High School to two state championships.
"Bringing in Don Beebe raises the ceiling quite a bit for recruiting and leading our drive to win conference championships and compete on a national level," said Jim Hamad, director of athletics at Aurora University. "And while we are thrilled to have an NFL veteran coach our student athletes, it is Don's mentorship on and off the field that gives us the most excitement. Don has led a life of character and integrity and we are confident our students will respond to his guidance. I think the future is brighter than ever for AU Athletics."
"We have a talented football team and we want to give our athletes every opportunity to be successful," said Rebecca Sherrick, Ph.D., president of Aurora University. "We are confident that Don will help us elevate our game to new levels."
Beebe grew up just down the road from Aurora University in Sugar Grove, Ill., graduating from Kaneland High School. He attended AU and played Spartan basketball for one season. While playing football at Chadron State in western Nebraska, his speed caught the eye of NFL scouts. He was invited to NFL combine trials in Indianapolis in 1989 where he (and Deion Sanders) ran the 40-yard dash in a record-setting 4.25 seconds. Beebe was the Buffalo Bills' first pick in the draft.
Beebe was the first NFL player to take the field in six Super Bowls -- four with the Buffalo Bills and two with the Green Bay Packers, one of which they won. He holds numerous records, including the Buffalo Bills record for most touchdowns in a game (four). Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy said Beebe "showed what a fighting heart is all about. He gave everything he had all of the time."
After retiring from the NFL, Beebe founded House of Speed in Aurora with Jeff Schutt in 1998. House of Speed has trained 100,000 athletes of various levels and sports, including more than 40 professional athletes such as Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo and Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons. Beebe coached football at Aurora Christian High School from 2004 to 2013, leading the team to three state championship appearances and two championships.
Beebe is a sought-after motivational speaker and in 2012 published a memoir, "Six Rings from Nowhere" chronicling his journey from construction worker to NFL record holder. He lives in Aurora with his wife, Diana. His son, Chad, is a wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings. Two of his three daughters play volleyball (one in high school, one in college) and his third daughter recently gave birth to Beebe's first grandchild. He is involved in a number of charitable organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.