CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Brandon Beck takes the teasing in stride. Some of his teammates on the Southeast Missouri State University football team call him "Grandpa."
At 25, Beck is older than his teammates and it would be an understatement to say he has been through more than most. He's certainly earned their respect through his military service and overcoming a major health scare, KFVS-TV (http://bit.ly/S09iaA ) reported.
"I can't really say there's anybody on this team I look up to more," said Levi Terrell, a senior running back for the Redhawks.
Beck was an all-region high school player at Jackson High School in southeast Missouri. He was recruited and signed to play at Lindenwood University. Instead, he decided to join the military and did a 15-month tour in Iraq.
"It was 2005, 2006, middle of the Iraq war, and I really just felt the need to go and do my part," said Beck.
Just as that tour was about to wrap up, several members of his unit noticed swelling in his neck. It turned out to be cancer — non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"April 15, 2009, is when I got the phone call," said Beck's mom, Natalie Dowdy. "I was pretty devastated, cried a lot."
"I was in the best shape of my life, and something like that pops out of nowhere?" said Beck.
He was treated first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, then in St. Louis. After five months of chemotherapy the cancer is in remission.
"I think for his age and his health, being in such good shape as he was, that helped a lot," Dowdy said.
The health scare gave Beck a new perspective.
"You are really more appreciative of the little things," he said. "I kind of saw football and college as a blessing, and it was something I wanted to take advantage of."
So after finishing his enlistment, Beck enrolled at Southeast Missouri State in January 2011. He then walked onto the football team and learned a new position: fullback.
Beck had 13 carries for 60 yards through the first 10 games of the season, and he scored his first collegiate touchdown.
"He just goes about doing his job, and while everyone else might be complaining about the weather, the heat or the long hours, just know what he's been through, you really can't complain too loud when you're near him," Redhawks coach Chris Norris said.
"Seeing what he's been through really gives us that feeling that we can get through anything, we can beat anything," Terrell said.
Information from: KFVS-TV, http://www.kfvs12.com