Growing up, Ben Souther always knew that he would one day be in the backfield on a Division I college football team. His teammate Brantley Beck — as a quarterback in Indiana — also had that same thought.
Souther was right. Beck? Not so much.
After a record-setting senior season as a running back at Chestatee High, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Souther received a slew of college offers from schools like Georgia Southern, Central Florida and Western Kentucky before he ultimately decided on Air Force.
Lost in the season that Souther had was the play of Beck, who instead of handing the ball off to Souther, was entrenched on the offensive line opening up holes for his good friend to run through. And although his level of play might have gone unnoticed to the casual fan, it wasn’t by the coaching staff at Air Force.
“Air Force came to watch Ben play basketball and I told them Brantley’s story,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “The next day, they called and asked for film and a week later they offered and he accepted.”
Accepting a Division I college football scholarship was a no-brainer for Beck.
“To be honest, it was the only D-I school that offered me to play football,” Beck said. “I was pretty sure I was going to Wheaton until Air Force called.”
The reason the Air Force called was simple. Beck is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, set a Chestatee record for knock downs during his senior season, and according to Luttrell has “tremendous upside.”
“I think Air Force sees him as a guy who’s barely scratched the surface of his ability,” Luttrell said.
That’s probably because he’s only been playing offensive line for a year.
Beck moved to Gainesville prior to his junior year after his father, Jon, became the pastor at New Holland Baptist Church. He showed up to football practice as a 180-pound spread-option quarterback with thoughts of bringing his prolific passing ability to the War Eagles; he thought wrong.
Chestatee doesn’t run the spread, instead Luttrell’s offense revolves around a strong running game and solid offensive line play; throwing the ball rarely happens.
Still, Beck knew he was a signal caller and nothing else. So he tried out for quarterback, and it didn’t take him long to realize that it wasn’t for him.
“Being a triple-option quarterback really wasn’t working for me,” Beck said.
So he moved to tight end, playing primarily on junior varsity and sparingly on Friday nights.
It was on those Friday nights when he and Souther first started to become friends. Beck would watch from the sidelines as Souther ran past, through and around opposing defenders, recalling his days as a quarterback.
“I miss it, but in a good way,” Beck said.
After his junior year finished, Beck decided to make another change; this time to left guard on the offensive line. Instead of watching Souther from the sidelines, he’d now be in charge of opening holes for the running back to go through.
“Knowing that I got the key block that let him go all the way was the best feeling in the world,” Beck said.
Souther appreciated his teammate’s effort.
“Running behind him felt right, felt comfortable,” Souther said. “I knew he wasn’t going to let me down and I wasn’t going to let him down.”
Standing on the sidelines, Luttrell couldn’t get over what he was seeing. He knew all about Souther’s ability and potential as a running back, but seeing a 180-pound quarterback turn into a 220-pound lineman still amazed him.
“He really hadn’t been in the weight room in the past,” Luttrell said of Beck. “But he came here and continued to develop a work ethic that has taken him a long way.”
All the way to Colorado Springs, Colo.
Moving more than 1,400 miles from home might be intimidating for most high school seniors, and while Souther and Beck both admit that missing their families will be the hardest adjustment, they can take comfort in knowing that they’ll be there together.
“No matter what happens, I’m still going to be able to talk to Ben,” Beck said.
“I didn’t put any emphasis on him going to Air Force,” Souther said. “But I just didn’t know if I could make that commitment without him.”
He doesn’t have to, and while the two will more than likely redshirt next season, they know that one day they will take the field together again, only this time it will be at a Division I school, and neither are taking that for granted.
“Nothing about this was easy,” Souther said of the opportunity to play at the next level. “I had to sacrifice a lot of my life. God gave me this opportunity and I don’t want to let him down.
“I want to make my family proud, Chestatee proud and God proud for the opportunity he’s given me.”
Few relish that opportunity more than Beck, who said he doesn’t know if he could have played quarterback at the Division I level.
“Knowing that I got offered as an offensive lineman is crazy,” Beck said. “It was a fun ride.”