Ten years ago, Don Beebe felt a calling to take over the Aurora Christian football program.
Coaching high school was not just a lark for the former NFL receiver and six-time Super Bowl participant. Beebe took the program's mentoring potential to heart, helping orchestrate a stadium and eventually a state championship-caliber program at the small, faith-based school.
But Beebe is a man of great ambition, and the time finally arrived when running the Eagles' football program no longer fit on his front-burner. On Friday night, Beebe announced at the Eagles' postseason banquet that he has stepped down as head coach and will be replaced by his younger brother, Dave Beebe.
Dave Beebe has been defensive coordinator for the Eagles since Don Beebe took charge in 2004.
"I know that it's right," Don Beebe said. "It doesn't mean it's not going to hurt, but I know it's right. What gives me great comfort is that Dave is going to take the program over, and it's going to be fantastic."
At least for the short term, Dave Beebe is hopeful that Don will stay on as the Eagles' offensive coordinator in a transition something reminiscent of the one made at Batavia when Mike Gaspari and Dennis Piron essentially swapped responsibilities.
Don Beebe cited two main factors in relinquishing the head coaching post less than a month after the Eagles were eliminated in the IHSA Class 3A state semifinals. An upcoming movie project based on the central role Christianity has played in his life journey figures to lead to other opportunities to speak of his religious convictions, and he also intends to see all of his son's future college football games; Chad Beebe is wrapping up his freshman season at Northern Illinois.
The movie is expected to explore similar themes to the ones tapped by author/journalist Denise Crosby in "Six Rings from Nowhere," a book released in 2012 about Beebe's underdog story. For the movie, Beebe is partnering with Desert Wind Faith Films, and executive producer Steven Camp said the movie will feature original storytelling beyond what went into the book.
"It'll be a lot of what Denise wrote, no question about it, but the nice thing about this group is they're giving me final say because I do not want a Hollywood story here," Don Beebe said. "I want a a story based on truth and not something that's not true and fantasized. My story is crazy enough as it is that you really don't have to make up a whole lot."
No, Don Beebe will not play himself in the movie, he brushed off with a laugh.
"I don't know the first thing about this stuff," Don Beebe said. "I'm as wet behind the ears as you can get but I'm just going to enjoy that deal and know full well I'm very blessed and honored to potentially have this happen, but knowing full well why. This isn't about Don Beebe. It's about my faith and potential platform I'll have to share that faith."
Don Beebe consistently maintained that molding young men into devout Christians, using football as a tool, dwarfed wins and losses at Aurora Christian. Coaching winning football, though, also came naturally to the Kaneland graduate, whose Aurora Christian teams went 97-26 in 10 years, featuring consecutive Class 3A state championships in 2011 and 2012.
Dave Beebe said his brother gave him free rein to mold the Eagles' defense, which caught up with the program's vaunted spread offense as a dominant unit in its own right in recent years.
Dave Beebe said he and his brother have had many conversations about an eventual transition.
"We knew the time was inevitable but it wasn't until this year that it was a different language, it was a different feeling in his voice that I was pretty certain this was going to be it," Dave Beebe said. "A clean break of 10 years, and I could just tell by the words he was using, by the change of his heart, that it was time for him."
Dave Beebe said he will meet with team members Monday but expressed confidence he can "manage the heart of the program" in a way that will continue advancing the program's off-field mission and on-field success.
Dave is the youngest of three Beebe brothers; middle brother Dan is the school's athletic director.
In addition to the movie – which could be completed as soon as fall 2015 – Camp said Don Beebe's story will help spark an up-and-coming website, nevergiveup.org, that Camp thinks has the potential to become the "most powerful faith-based initiative on the planet, I really do."
A West Aurora graduate, Camp said he's been drawn to Don Beebe's life story for many years.
"We believe this faith-based film will be very warmly embraced by our target audience but we also think this film has a great chance to cross over into a secular audience as well," Camp said.
Camp said it is too early to size up the movie's breadth, but speculated that Don Beebe feeling compelled to mentor young athletes at Aurora Christian likely would be included.
Don Beebe said Aurora Christian is "still my home," noting that he has two daughters who attend the school. A branch of his popular sports training business, "House of Speed," also operates out of Aurora Christian.
"I will always wear my state championship rings more than I wear my Super Bowl ring," Don Beebe said. "Matter of fact, I never wear my Super Bowl ring. I take more pride in the sense that we won a state championship with a bunch of innocent kids. The Super Bowl was great, don't get me wrong, it was great, it was awesome … but when you're getting 16 and 17 year old kids to do crazy things and win a state championship, that's so rewarding for me."