Beck has look of latest standout South Fayette tailback

October 4, 2017
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Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac
South Fayette tailback Johnny Beck ranks among the WPIAL leaders in rushing with 543 yards on 69 carries. He has also scored nine touchdowns for the undefeated Lions.
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Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac
Johnny Beck also excels on defense, ranking third on the team in tackles.
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Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac
Johnny Beck had a breakout game against New Castle in the playoffs last year. In his first career start, he gained 113 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns.
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Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac
Johnny Beck missed his freshman season because of a broken femur. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his varsity career at South Fayette.

Good looks got Johnny Beck recognized by advertising agencies as a toddler. In fact, he starred in a commercial for Mon Valley Hospital as a youth.

Johnny Beck File

Age: 17

Birthdate: Dec. 28 just after Christmas. “It has its good and its bad. You get less gifts sometimes but I do enjoy it. My best gift from Santa Claus was my Xbox and my best birthday present was a Barry Sanders Fat Head.”

Parents: John and Dana

Siblings: Danny, 15.

School: South Fayette

Year: Senior

Other sports: Basketball

Other clubs: Yearbook, GRIT. “It’s a volunteer group that help kids assimilate from eighth grade to high school.”

College choices: Mt. Union, Capital, Washington & Jefferson, Millersville, Slippery Rock.

Major: Sports management

Career choice: Athletic trainer or exercise conditioning coach

Color: Red “Because I am a big Ohio State Fan.”

Food: Pizza “From either Jioio’s in Greensburg or Pepperoncinis in Oakdale.”

Movie: “Step Brothers”

Music/Artist: Hip hop rap. Lil Wayne

Restaurant: Outback Steakhouse

Book: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dream Destination: Cancun or Hawaii

Favorite athlete: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey

People might be surprised to know this about you: “I was in a commercial for Mon Valley Hospital when I was a couple years old.”

Who you would like to have dinner with: Lebron James. “I love watching him play.”

What has sports taught you? “How to battle and deal with adversity. It’s hard. When you are knocked down and deal with it and come back, it makes you know that you can get through the difficult times, even in life.”

What do you like best about playing football? “Being able to be with your best friends every day, being coached by the best coaching staff around and playing under the Friday night lights. There’s nothing like it. I really enjoy that.”

In 15 years, I will be: “A successful businessman.”

Today, good looks have gotten him noticed on the gridiron. This football season, the South Fayette senior sees the gaps his offensive line creates well and gobbles up big gains. As the Lions improved to 6-0 this fall, the 5-11, 200-pound tailback has rolled up 543 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Beck averages nearly eight yards per carry.

“The offensive line is getting the job done. Without them, I wouldn’t be getting these good looks,” said the 17-year-old son of John and Dana Beck.

“I give all the credit for my success to those guys up front. They have created nice holes.”

Since he was a freshman and watched the Lions win championships in the conference, WPIAL and state, Beck has had the desire to be South Fayette’s go-to ball carrier. He has had to wait his turn, though.

Ahead of him were standouts, such as Grant Fetchet (2,321 career yards and 31 TDs from 2012-13), Hunter Hayes (3,954 yards and 59 TDs from 2012-15) and Geovonie Love (1,366 yards and 24 scores from 2013-16).

During South Fayette’s playoff loss to New Castle last season, Beck sported the look of a Lions tailback when he rushed for 113 yards and three scores.

“I wouldn’t say that night was the highlight,” Beck said. “That game, I was just the next man up. Coach always says that you’ve got to be ready to get the job done. It all just flowed. Great offensive line. My success came from guys in front of me.”

For Beck, success does come from within. Though a first-year starter this season, he has prepared for his day to shine. In addition to working out with teammates and attending passing camps, he does the extra heavy lifting at other places like Bulls Gym.

“He works hard,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “He comes to practices and he exhibits a great work ethic. That’s one of his strengths. He’s a quiet kid. A good kid.

“Running back is a key position for us. It always has been and we’ve had some good ones. It’s who wants to be the next one up. This year, we’ve had a few running backs to share the load but Johnny has come to the forefront. He wants to run the ball better.”

The past and present propel Beck. He said that he saw how good Hayes, Fetchet and Love played. Yet, he’s just trying to be the best that he can be.

“I saw what it takes to be a good back at South Fayette but I am setting my own path,” he said. “I want to come out and get the job done for my team. I want to make sure that I am playing to the best of my abilities to help the team win.”

Beck trusts the South Fayette system and he believes in his coaches, particularly Derrick Carson, who is in charge of the running backs.

“There’s always room for improvement and he works with me a lot to get better,” Beck emphasized.

Beck has also improved his defensive play. As an outside linebacker, he already has three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble to go along with 17 tackles.

“I take pride in playing defense, and every week the guys know what we’ll be doing because Coach Rossi has a game plan prepared for us. Mostly it’s to limit yards and TDs. Because of the standard Coach Rossi sets, when he has us prepared, we should be able to get the job done every week.”

Beck does not measure his job success in statistics. He charts them in victories.

“Numbers are numbers and I don’t focus on stats,” he said. “Every time I get the ball, I look to get into the end zone because I know touchdowns help our team win. That is the role I want to play on the team. As a captain, I want to lead the team to victories.”

The Lions currently ride a regular-season winning streak of 53 games into this week’s contest at New Castle. That streak dates back to when he was a freshman and missed the 2014 season because of a broken femur. That year, the Lions won WPIAL and PIAA championships.

“I saw what a good team was and what it took, and I knew I would be able to come back but the injury motivated me more than anything. Now, I want to have an undefeated season, too, win the conference and win the WPIAL championship. In the end, that is our goal but our mentality is one week at a time. Focus to the best of our ability and we’ll be one step closer to a championship.

“Every week I feel like I get a little bit better,” he added. “I see what I need to improve and with the coaching I have, they are there working with me and everybody else to get there.”

Eleanor Bailey has been the sports editor at The Almanac since 1982. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism and speech communications.

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