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Dorial Green-Beckham became a litmus test for many aspects of Gary Pinkel’s Missouri process

Reliving the recruitment, on-field exploits, and dismissal of the top prospect in the 2012 recruiting class.


His back story is rather well-known that this point, and this piece isn't intended to rehash it in great detail. Good writers have already tackled the topic. He grew up Dorial Green, a no-chance kid in both St. Louis and Springfield. He lived in group homes, foster homes … a van. Older siblings struggled with the law, and his single mother struggled with drugs and alcohol. John Beckham, Hillcrest football coach, and his wife Tracy took in both Dorial and his brother Darnell, like they had for tens of other kids through the years. In 2009, they became official guardians, and Green became Green-Beckham. Last winter, as Dorial's recruiting stock began to explode, he was dealt another tough card: Darnell, a freshman at Hillcrest, was stricken with leukemia. He has responded wonderfully to treatment.

DGB was taught the hard (and lasting) way how much family and trust can matter.

Because of both his upbringing and the traits inherent to him, Dorial has never carried himself as an elite recruit. He grew up painfully shy, and as he will prove in his signing ceremony, he still is to a degree. From the beginning of his recruitment, about four years ago, he (with help from Mr. Beckham) has strived for privacy, a humble kid who hit the genetic lottery. He speaks with little volume, hoping that his exploits will do much of the talking for him.

Dorial Green-Beckham Signs With Missouri, And Springfield Gives Away Its Star

Gary Pinkel’s success was based on two pillars in recruiting: identifying tons of raw athletes and diamonds in the rough out of state (mainly in Texas) and landing his fair share of in-state studs.

His success was also based, in part, on his consistency — in recruiting, in daily planning, in assistant coach firing (or lack thereof), in discipline. He tried to give the impression that stars and scrubs were going to be treated the same.

Both his recruiting practices and his disciplinary methods were tested in dramatic ways when Dorial Green-Beckham entered the picture.

Pinkel and his staff learned pretty early on that landing the state’s big fish would take some extreme patience. Mizzou got Blaine Gabbert’s commitment only after a long Nebraska commitment and a historically awesome Tiger season in 2007. The staff got in on Sheldon Richardson super-early, then had to work to hold onto him every day for years. And since he didn’t immediately qualify, Mizzou had to go through two long recruitments to land him.

Missouri landed its fair share of the state’s top prospects but lost out on plenty, too. Only once, though, did the top prospect in the nation live within Missouri’s borders, and Mizzou outlasted Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and virtually everybody else in the country to earn his signature on National Signing Day.

Kansas v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Just a week before Dorial’s decision, John Beckham, who is the football coach at Hillcrest High, thought his son was headed to Arkansas. But that was before Dorial was overwhelmed by his official visit to Missouri, where signs such as “Welcome Home” were hung from highway overpasses, fans chanted “MIZ-DGB!” and his favorite food, fried sushi, was served at every meal.

But even after Dorial told his parents of his decision, there was still plenty of other drama, such as his college choice being reported a day later by the Tulsa World, an Arkansas booster leaving a voicemail on John Beckham’s cell phone indicating he was considering making a financial donation to Hillcrest High’s football team, and Tracy Beckham throwing up less than two hours before Dorial’s announcement.

“Most kids couldn’t handle it,” said Dorial, who was officially adopted by John and Tracy Beckham in 2009.

Inside the chase for top recruit DGB

DGB played 25 games in a Missouri uniform, and to the extent that anybody can live up to “top recruit in the country” expectations, he more or less did so. He caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns.

After a reasonably slow start to his freshman campaign -- he had only seven catches through seven games -- he caught 21 balls over his last five games, then picked up where he left off in Missouri's 2013 bounceback campaign. He had four touchdowns in the first four games, he caught what was basically the game-clinching pass in Missouri's 41-26 upset of Georgia, and he had a ridiculous seven-catch, 100-yard, four-touchdown performance against Kentucky in early November.

He had a huge touchdown catch and 93 receiving yards in Missouri's 28-21 win over Texas A&M, a game that clinched a stunning SEC East title. And in the SEC Championship against Auburn, he caught six balls for a career-high 144 yards and two more scores. His long touchdown right before halftime gave Missouri the lead heading into the second half.

DGB was one of the faces of Missouri’s top-five season and was one of the major reasons the Tigers had hopes for a repeat going into 2014. But past demons began creeping back into the picture. He had been suspended for a game in 2012 for getting caught with marijuana, and in January 2014 he was found in a car with marijuana again, though it allegedly had nothing to do with him.

In early-April 2014, Green-Beckham was suspended for what turned out to be a domestic dispute. It was one of a series of arrests related to the basketball or football teams at the time, and as details of the incident emerged — shoving a friend of his girlfriend’s out of the way and having her fall down some stairs, girlfriend begging friend not to press charges because of his football future, etc. — it was increasingly clear that this was becoming a major test of Pinkel’s football culture.

On April 11, 2014, Pinkel dismissed DGB from the Missouri football program.

I found myself understanding and accepting that this might happen -- the timing surprises me a bit, though, as I'd have assumed it would happen yesterday -- but it's obviously immensely disappointing. This was a person we got to know (through media, stories, etc.) years ago, and it was easy to both root for him on the field and hope that off the field he filled in the gaps that emerged through his upbringing. I believe he wants to succeed and wants to be a good person, and hopefully that happens. It evidently will not be happening at Mizzou, however.

If nothing else, this indeed sends a ridiculously strong message that when Gary Pinkel, Mike Alden, etc., talk about respect, respect for women, and respect for the university, they mean it. I was hoping there would be a happy ending to this story for him at Missouri, but people who know him very well decided that will not be the case, and it's hard not to respect that. Good luck, Dorial.

That Missouri went on to win the SEC East again in 2014 without him gave a Pinkel-friendly cap to the story. Tiger fans uneasy about the decision at the time came to support the decision once they knew that wins would continue, for at least one more year, unabated.

At the time, though, it caught many, including Green-Beckham, off-guard. On the Mizzou Internet, fan reactions were mixed and conflicted. Pinkel risked negative feedback and on-field regression in support of what he viewed as the culture of the program. That took some nerve, but that’s where the DGB story ended in Columbia.

It continues for DGB himself, obviously. He transferred to Oklahoma, and after a mandatory redshirt season, he declared for the NFL Draft. He was selected in the second round, 40th overall, and two years into his pro career with the Titans and Eagles, he has caught 68 passes for 941 yards and six touchdowns.

Green Bay Packers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

He has been productive, though maybe not at the level that was expected. Regardless, there have been no further (known) incidents. He has a chance to continue fending off the demons that dragged him down in Missouri.

When you are struggling to even get by, when you are shuffling from home (and van) to home, I imagine it becomes impossible not to miss developmental checkpoints. Maybe you catch up without any harm done, but it's hard. The dark side is always nearby. And when it corrupts some of the people close to you, everything gets exponentially harder. When I see NFL scouts calling him "immature" and whatnot, my immediate response is, "Well, yeah, of course he is. You probably would be, too."

Nothing in the world will justify what Dorial Green-Beckham allegedly did late that Saturday night; even the most rose-colored interpretation of testimony, text messages, etc., paints a picture of an angry DGB barging through the door of an apartment as someone is trying to close it, pushing a girl out of the way, and not pausing or taking stock of the situation (or his emotions) when she falls down a few stairs and hurts her hand/wrist.

Even if everything else in the story was exaggerated or wasn't as bad as it sounded, that's bad enough. We all get angry, but when we start to lose control of ourselves, there has to be something to reel us back in; DGB didn't get himself reeled back in, at least not enough. Again, nothing justifies that. And nothing justifies the drug tests he allegedly failed along the way during his not-even-two-years in Columbia.

But knowing his background, all I ever hoped for was punishment that worked. He perhaps deserved more of a slap from the legal system than he received, but if you get a second chance, don't waste it. Whether DGB left Mizzou after two chances, or three, or four, or 20, he was forced to leave. And whether he only still has a chance for success in life because he's athletically blessed, he still has a chance. It would be a shame for him to waste it, and if you believe what he has said and what others have said about him, he grasped this somewhere between that fateful Saturday night and his summer drive to Norman.