de Beer living, playing with a can-do attitude
AUG 20, 2014 4:38p ET
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Gerhard de Beer officially found a home. Actually, it's a home within a home.
His permanent spot is on the offensive line as a tackle at Arizona.
"I definitely think this is where I belong," de Beer said. "I'm having fun in what I'm doing."
It's not that he wasn't having fun -- or appreciative -- playing on the defensive line or some snaps at tight end. But now he has found his comfort zone on the O-line, thousands of miles from his native home of Pretoria, South Africa.
"That was just us not knowing him and him not knowing (the game)," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said of all the position switches. "Hell, he didn't know what the difference was between a tight end and whatever. He's now an offensive tackle and could be a good one."
Whether he emerges this season or the next will be determined. But de Beer has come a long way from being an athlete "who didn't even know how to put on pads or a helmet" a few months ago, Rodriguez likes to joke.
He looks more like an offensive lineman. He said his "six pack" is long gone, having gained 40 pounds from a year ago, going from 250 to 290. He's 6-foot-7.
"My heart has to beat a little harder and I have to make proper strides," he said. "But I'm getting used to it."
Still, everyone likes the rugby-turned-track-and-field-star-turned-football-player's progress. And yes, he's still on a scholarship with Arizona's track team as a premier discus thrower.
"He's picking up the game really fast; to be playing offensive line you have to know a lot," said fellow offensive lineman Fabbians Ebbele. "He's keeping up. He always asks great questions and if (he) needs help he's always asking for it. It shows that he likes the game and that he'll (eventually) be good at it."
That's the plan. Or at least the hope and reason why de Beer decided to play football after a long history of playing rugby and watching cousin Simone du Toit succeed at Southern Methodist and Margus Hunt (a former discus and shot putter) succeed on the football field. Hunt is now with the Bengals in the NFL.
He can also thank YouTube for his initial research into football.
"I think he could work himself into a football scholarship ... for sure," Rodriguez said.
His thirst to learn is refreshing. De Beer is affable and humble, knowing he's come a long way from his days in South Africa. And although it may seem trite for anyone who listens to his "gee-whiz" attitude, he's sincere when he says he can't believe his fortune in being at Arizona.
It's why his biggest and best experience hasn't been a specific play or moment, but the entire experience.
"I've never experienced something like this," he said. "Sports aren't funded in South Africa. I came here last year and the Lowell-Stevens facility was just built. I gotta tell you, it's beautiful. I was stunned when I saw it. I thank God for the blessing I have and get to do every day."
His friends and family back home haven't experienced what he has, although he tells them of his good fortune often via Skype and FaceTime.
"They are blown away (by it all)," he said.
He appreciates everything. He's working on his pre-business major and working at both sports when time allows, heading to the track for workouts at least twice a week.
"That hasn't been the easiest thing for him," Rodriguez said.
That's true. As he says Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are his most "lenient days."
He'll be taking an online class to free up time, "but that doesn't mean it receives any less attention," he said.
For a 20-year-old, de Beer talks beyond his years. He quotes Henry Ford, "whether you believe you can or you can't, you are right."
Can't is not in his vocabulary. Then again his learning curve is through the roof.
"If I really set my mind to it and I really want to (do something), I can do it," he said. "I'd really like to play at the next level. Yes, there are outside factors that I cannot influence, but I will do all I can."
Of course, there is much work to be done. But as he said, it's work "I gotta do."
"We have a saying, 'You pay the price you pay,'" he said. "You pay for working hard and improving."
Has it been worth it?
"It's definitely worth it," he said.
And if -- and when? -- he eventually gets in a game, he'll savor the moment. To him, the kid from South Africa gets wowed by the crowds.
"Game days and all the hype are incredible," he said. "The crowd is loud with so many people coming to see the team. It's about the team.
"It'll never be about me. It's always about the team. And what we need to get better."