Writer’s Note: The following is reposted with permission, originally printed in Mountainside Fitness’ Spring 2012 edition of M Magazine. If you’re in Arizona, check out a Mountainside. They have badass TRX stations if you want to look cool while playing with a gigantic string of rope.
Not included in this article is our conversation about Jim Tressell, his desire to play for the Bengals or Browns, or how we made fun of Vontaze Burfict, who was working out on site. Stay tuned for those sordid tales…
Beanie Wells has reached his goal. Now, he just has to keep it.
“When you’re a kid, your dream is to make it to the NFL,” Beanie said, “But when you’re in the NFL, your dream is to stay in the NFL.” Playing football professionally, among such elite athletes, is a career coveted by many yet claimed by few, and though the benefits can be enormous at times, longevity is not a quality common among its participants. “So often, you see guys get in and out, in and out, in and out,” Beanie said. “People are here one day and gone the next, and you never know when that last day will be.”
But Beanie isn’t worrying about that at all — instead, he enjoys every second spent in the league, and works hard to ensure his playing days last for the long haul. Taking time to rest after hitting the free weights at Mountainside Fitness’ Gilbert location, Beanie is already hard at work preparing for the 2012 football season. “When you’re doing this, you have to prepare like a professional. Not only on the field, but off the field.”
And even though the team hasn’t reported to camp, the time off hasn’t given him an excuse to let up. “You’ve got a time period, like the first month of the offseason, you can kind of relax, eat all your junk food, and party a little bit,” he said. “But it has to come to a point where you have to kick it in, turn it into gear. You have to be prepared and you have to work out.”
Now that he’s a professional, he said, he’s at a level where he’s playing among the most talented in the game. He needs to be disciplined, and that includes working out everyday — even during the offseason.
“Working out is the most important thing. The offseason is huge.” Beanie said. “It’s more intense. In the regular season, you’re just doing weightlifting stuff to maintain strength and stay in shape.”
But Beanie’s offseason is the opposite, he said. He’s working out more, lifting more, hoping to build upon his already considerable strength. And he’s running often, always improving his endurance, speed, and quickness.
“You have to go hard” Beanie said.
Health is one of Beanie’s main concerns this year, having ended last season with a knee injury. He’s worked hard to repair the damage, and recently underwent a minor arthroscopic surgical procedure.
Now the Cardinals running back is healthy. He’s working out, and he’s preparing for an even better season than the one he had in 2011, which won’t be an easy feat. Despite the injury, he finished 2011 as the Cardinals’ leading rusher, attaining 1,047 yards in 14 starts.
He stomped through the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants, in Week 5, rushing for over 130 yards and scoring three touchdowns. The next week, in a tough loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Beanie showed an impressive physical display when he plowed Cedric Griffin, knocking the imposing cornerback’s helmet off, before getting a first down. (“That play made it worthwhile,” Beanie said.) And toward the end of the season, against the St. Louis Rams, Beanie had his best career game yet, gaining 228 yards on the ground including a breakaway 71-yard-run stopped just short of the goal line.
The Cardinals had some troubles on offense throughout the season, but Beanie’s consistency on the ground became an integral part of their scoring attack and was a large part of the team’s 9-7 finish. Beanie said his success has earned him some confidence with the coaching staff, and that he’s really looking forward to a full off-season unhindered by a lockout.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I know, at the end of the day, this is what pays the bills but you have to be good at your job in order to have it.” Beanie’s work ethic is rooted in advice his father gave him in college.
“Just take care of yourself. You have to take care of YOU, first and foremost, because nobody else will,” he said. “Nobody is going to take a hit for you, nobody is going to run the football for you, nobody is going to lift a weight for you. You have to carry yourself that way.”
Beanie cites his parents as the source of his inspiration, who raised him along with 11 other brothers and sisters. Now a father to two children of his own, he said he wants to be a great parent to his kids just as his mom and dad were to him. “Being a father, that’s beyond anything,” Beanie said. “I want to raise my kids to grow up to be great young men, and everything else is secondary to that.”
Maturity comes at a young age for Beanie, who will turn 24 this August. His success has come with notoriety, and he’s using that for a good cause — currently, Beanie and his camp are teaming with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, organizing an event in Scottsdale to raise money for Arizona children.
“We’re going to do a charity poker tournament,” Beanie said. “We’re going to get a couple local celebrities and a few of the Arizona Cardinals teammates.”
It’s clear that Beanie’s own parents instilled a sense of responsibility he carries on and off the field, working hard for his team, his family, and his community.
Beanie might not act it, but he is a young man. He shared with us his playful side when he mentioned he’s a ‘90s kid who grew up watching shows like Ren & Stimpy and Legends of the Hidden Temple. His favorite superhero is the Flash, which is fitting for a pro running back. In his teens, he watched “The Notebook” with hopes of learning more about the opposite sex. And despite his strict diet and workout regimen, he’ll still partake in a seasonal Thin Mint cookie binge, courtesy of the Girl Scouts of America.
Don’t mistake these as signs of immaturity, for they are anything but. Instead, take them as notice that Beanie knows how to have fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously. And though he still indulges in ‘90s Nickelodeon cartoons from time to time, he maintains a sense of dignity and class.
He prefers spending his spare time fishing for bass and catfish instead of playing video games. He strays away from Twitter controversy, which has become an all-too common commotion among today’s athletes. And he prefers to mellow out to the smooth sounds of Marvin Gaye before a game, instead of the typical frenetic pump-up music echoing throughout the arena. That sense of maturity is hard to come by among professional athletes today.
Beanie attended Ohio State University for three years before declaring for the NFL, and he says his time in college was integral to his growing up.
“You not only learn a trade, you also learn how to grow up,” Beanie said of college. “It teaches you how to take responsibility and accountability for what you do.”
He hasn’t graduated yet, having entered the NFL before getting his degree, but Beanie said he has plans to finish his education through online school before transferring back to Ohio State.
“I have 12 credit hours left,” he said. “My parents stressed to me and my brothers and sisters, to get an education because, ultimately, you can’t do anything without it.”
A product of no one’s hard work but his own, Beanie handles his responsibilities with pride. And now that he’s become the foundation of the Cardinals’ running game, he’s working to keep his spot at the top of the depth chart.
“I came from a system at Ohio State where I was used to getting the ball,” he said. “For me to get back to that this past season was amazing … This year I’m looking forward to going into it a lot healthier and still getting the bulk of the carries.”
Looking into his crystal ball, Beanie channeled the infamous Bart Scott in making his prediction:
“I can’t wait. 2012 is definitely going to be a big year.”