June 14, 2024

‘A real loss for the Auburn people’: Friends, teammates remember Terry Beasley

Terry Beasley was remembered Thursday for his work ethic, toughness and the jaw-dropping speed and athletic ability that still has his name etched in the Auburn record books more than 50 years after he played his final game for the Tigers.

Hugh Freeze, Auburn expected to see three veteran players opt out of bowl  game vs. Maryland - al.com

Beasley died Thursday at age 73, following decades of health problems that began with the numerous concussions and head injuries that he suffered during his football career. Authorities in Moody, where Beasley resided for the last several years of his life, are investigating his death as a possible suicide.

However, those who knew Beasley chose to remember him not as the man who was “sick for 40 years” — as former teammate Terry Henley described it — but as one-half of the famed “Sullivan to Beasley” connection that defined Auburn football from 1969-71. Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy as the Tigers’ quarterback in their senior season, with a major assist from Beasley at wide receiver.

“The only person I can put even close to Terry Beasley is (NFL star) Tyreek Hill down there at Miami,” said Henley, an All-SEC running back at Auburn who was a year behind Sullivan and Beasley. “He was about 5-foot-10, 5-11 and just muscles from his ears all the way to his ankles. If you saw him in the dressing room in just a pair of shorts, you wouldn’t believe it. He looked like a bodybuilder — and he didn’t even lift weights.

“It was just God-given. He was so explosive off the line. He didn’t take two steps to leave you. It was just one step and he was gone, buddy. He was just a fantastic talent.”

Beasley and Sullivan — who died in 2019 — re-wrote the Auburn record books during their three years of varsity play with the Tigers. Though many of Sullivan’s passing records have been surpassed in the high-offense era of recent years, Beasley — a Montgomery native who starred at what was then Robert E. Lee High School before joining Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s Tigers — remains atop numerous receiving categories.

Beasley is still Auburn’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,507) and touchdown catches (29) — 11 ahead of second-place Ben Obomanu in the latter category — and ranks fourth in receptions (141). His 12 touchdown receptions in 1971 are still the Tigers’ single-season record, with his 11 in 1970 the second-highest total in program history.

“We didn’t throw the ball but about probably 20 times a game back then,” Henley remembered, “and he probably caught 19 of them.”

It’s also worth remembering, as former Auburn sports information director and athletics director David Housel notes, Beasley set many of his records during a time the Tigers played only 10 regular-season games per year (as opposed to 12 for most teams nowadays). Bowl games also didn’t in official statistics at the time.

But Beasley’s impact went beyond pure numbers, Housel said. He was best-known for making “over the head” catches, leaning back in full stride to snare a long pass from Sullivan, whom he was confident would put the ball in a catchable position.

Auburn vs. Georgia 1971

“He used to tell Pat ‘you throw it, I’ll catch it,’ and that was pretty much true,” Housel said. “He just went to the spot, never looked, threw his hands up, and caught the ball. Of course, Pat threw it to the right place and he was at the right place, but to catch that ball without ever looking at it, that’s not normal. And he didn’t do it once or twice, he did it quite often.”

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