DALTON, Ga. -- Tre Beck may have lost most of his senior season to a leg injury, but the Dalton senior running back may have found a career.
Beck returned to action last week in Dalton's 21-14 win at Cartersville, breaking off an 80-yard touchdown run to help the Catamounts earn a berth in the Class AAA playoffs. During his eight-week absence from the backfield, Beck learned. Then he taught.
Though he still has a bit of playing to do, beginning tonight at Region 8 champion Gainesville (9-1), at least one person believes a future coach was born.
"No one can even really conceive how hard he's worked off the field to get back with his team," Dalton coach Matt Land said. "While he was out, he was helping our backs and learning the other positions. It was almost like having a graduate assistant. Tre one day will be a coach, there's no doubt in my mind."
One of his first pupils is good friend Tre Bonds, who began the season as a receiver, then moved to tailback when Beck broke a leg bone. All the speedy Bonds has done since is rush for 1,400 yards, production that didn't surprise Beck.
"I couldn't be out there, but I was encouraging them as much as I could," said Beck, who said his recruitment by schools such as Georgia Tech and Air Force has picked back up. "I was out for eight weeks, and I was sad, but I knew my offense, especially with Tre, could get the job done."
The injury may also have been a blessing for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Beck in another way. The time away from athletic competition healed more than his leg.
"Tre has had a high ankle sprain since his freshman year, and you're talking about a three-sport athlete," Land said. "So he's never had time to really let that heal. He played every minute of every game last year at point guard, so that tells you something about his competitiveness. So this injury allowed his ankle to heal."
Now that Beck is healthy, Land and offensive coordinator Bill Napier are working overtime to find different ways to get him and Bonds both on the field. There are times Bonds lines up as the quarterback in the team's wildcat set, with Beck at tailback. Each can take a turn at receiver, and there are times when they both might be in the same backfield, with Bonds at fullback.
"I like the wildcat formation, but there are a lot of ways to use us," said Bonds, whose breakthrough senior season has put him on the recruiting radar. "It gives teams a lot to think about."
Added Beck: "With both of us out there at the same time, it gives us more of an advantage, no matter who gets the ball."
The Catamounts will need all the firepower they can muster against a Gainesville team averaging nearly 50 points per game over the last nine games.
"They've got a great team, but I think we're a great team also," said Beck, getting into coach mode. "If we play like we can, I know it will be a good game."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...