Besand lives a story of hope, inspiration

Saturday, April 30, 2005

St. Vincent football coach Keith Winkler recalls even from an early age senior Chris Besand had a passion for football.

Besand turned that passion into a solid four-year career at St. Vincent, which ended in the fall with the Indians' first football state title. What makes Besand's journey from football-enthused child to state champion special is that Besand did it all with the use of a prosthetic leg.

"I've known Chris from a very early age, all he ever talked about was football," Winkler said, "and he would not let anything deter his dream."

Besand said football was simply a family affair.

"I just always liked it," he said. "I always wanted to play. My dad, all my uncles and my grandpa played. I always wanted to."

Besand, a 6-foot-3 nose guard, lost his right leg at the age of 2 in a farming accident. Aided by the use of a prosthetic leg, Besand played various sports throughout his childhood, including baseball and golf. His combination of skill on the field and personality off it helped Besand earn one of several honors which will be bestowed on the St. Vincent program Sunday at Washington University.

At the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame annual awards banquet, Besand will be one of two players to receive the most inspirational/courageous player award.

Besand said while he never heard it first-hand, there have been instances where people have told St. Vincent coaches and fans how inspiring Besand is.

"They never really said it to me. They said it to coach or a fan and it was relayed back to me," Besand said.

On a close-knit group which preached a team-first attitude, Winkler said Besand was a big part of that team unity.

"I think that was a big part of coming together as a team, the guys seeing him and seeing what he had to do to play," Winkler said.

With the support of the community, Besand did not doubt his hard work would one day land him in the blue and gold for the Indians.

"There was never really anyone that doubted it," Besand said. "Everyone in the community knew that I could do it."

While he had the support and confidence of his teammates and community, there were likely plenty of doubters on opposing teams early in his career.

Winkler said anyone who doubted Besand quickly changed their tune.

"His freshman and sophomore years, you would hear a lot of people wondering how he could play," Winkler said, "but the more they saw him play, the more they realized he's a ballplayer."

During his senior campaign, Besand made 16 tackles, including one sack. Besand used his size and upper body strength to make himself a run-stopping defensive lineman for the Indians.

"Every day I look at him in pure amazement of what he's been able to do, not letting anything get in his way," Winkler said.

Besand was able to live out a much-talked about dream when he hit the Edward Jones Dome field in the Class 1 state championship game. This was the third time the Indians had made it to the state championship game, with their dominating 21-0 win over East Buchanan the first title for the program.

"My cousin, he was on the first team that ever went," Besand said. "We always talked about going. I always wanted to play in the dome."

Added Besand: "It's something you won't forget."

As for the postseason accolade, Besand said the thought of being an inspiration never really crossed his mind.

"I did it to enjoy it," he said. "I probably got more confidence out of it for what I can do."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: