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Tavante Beckett

Marshall’s Tavante Beckett (4) excitedly takes the field on the Thundering Herd’s first day of practice on Aug. 3.

Tavante Beckett plays with great passion.

Anybody who ever has watched Marshall University’s whirling dervish of a weak-side linebacker knows that.

But why?

What is the 5-foot-10, 214-pound redshirt senior’s motivation? What is driving the native of Chesapeake, Virginia? What is pushing Beckett to compete so relentlessly?

Better sit down. The answer probably is going to come as a surprise.

Beckett plays with so much heart because of what’s in his heart. Their names are Jace and Raelynn. They are his son and daughter, living back in Beckett’s hometown.

“I’ve got people at home ... a lot of them,” said Beckett quietly. “But I have kids at home. I’ve got a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old at home, just growing up and I’m just watching from afar.

“So every day I just wake up knowing that I’ve got to do this for them and then my mom. Just everything. Just wake up and just knowing that I’ve got a lot on my shoulders.”

That translates into high-motored performances any and every time Beckett walks onto the field.

“When I get on the field I just stay tunnel-visioned and focus on the task at hand,” he explained. “It’s kind of why I play so hard every time. It’s because I’ve got so much relying on me outside of football.”

That would be a lot of weight to carry around mentally for a lesser man. But Beckett? He doesn’t even flinch.

“I know at the end of the day,” said Beckett, “if I don’t finish the mission, it’s mission failed. That’s kind of my motto. If you stay tunnel-visioned and keep locked in. I’ve got an end goal, individually and as a team, and if I let things get to my head then it’s going to hurt me.

“So I just stay tunnel-visioned and God will stay tunnel-visioned.”

Sounds hard core, doesn’t it? And it is. But it’s hard core with a lot of soft edges.

Now, UMass isn’t going to experience any of those soft edges when Beckett and 16th-ranked Marshall host the Minutemen at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Oh no, just the contrary.

UMass will get Beckett at full blast.

But don’t allow that to eschew potential opinions of him. Beckett the hard-core linebacker and Davante the softhearted daddy actually are one and the same person.

“He really does care about people,” said Brad Lambert, Marshall’s defensive coordinator. “When I got here a year and half ago, two years now, and kind of got in a room with him and started developing a relationship with him, he kind of had a hard edge about him.

“But at the same time there was this person and you could tell he really had a big heart. Trying to get that out of him took a little while.”

The catalyst?

Jace and Raelynn.

“We just had a lot of good talks about his kids,” said Lambert. “And I could tell they meant a lot to him. People mean a lot to him. He has a big heart.

“That’s been fun to kind of watch that emerge over the last two years that I’ve had a chance to be around him. He’s had a lot of success on the field, and it’s obvious he genuinely cares about his teammates by the way he goes to work every day, the way he tries to motivate them and push them.

“He just has a big heart. I think he cares about people.”

Sometimes that part of Beckett’s personality disappears behind his physicality, but it’s still there.

“You might mistake him for having this hard edge because he is a real physical player,” said Lambert. “He’s a dominating force on the field. But the guy really has a big heart and it has been fun to watch that emerge over a two-year period.”

So now everybody can appreciate both sides of Tavante Beckett. The hard-core part where he wreaks havoc on a football field and the soft-core part where he wishes he could kiss his kids goodnight.

Both sides join to make Beckett the man he is.