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Throwback Thursday: Former Notre Dame Running Back, Lee Becton

If I can get the ball to be part of the body, it won’t let go. I pride myself on not fumbling.

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Lee Becton
Lee Becton

Even when I’m not actively doing research for a project, I do enjoy poking around in Notre Dame Archives. There are so many great memories recorded there from my four years at Notre Dame, and of course the many years before and since. I can thank my dad for my love of history, both Notre Dame history, and the history of this country. One of my favorite classes at Notre Dame was a class on the Civil War, in which we read the book Killer Angels (which, if you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a great read!) ... but I digress. In my poking around in ND Archives this week, I stumbled across a piece on former Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back, Lee Becton, (from the Scholastic Magazine 1994 Football Review) that I thought I would share excerpts from this week for my Throwback Thursday. Lee is not only a classmate of mine, but a good friend to this day, so it was fun to read this story about Lee Becton.

But before I share that story, I also found this gem in SI’s vault. “It was easy to spot Lee Becton on the Notre Dame campus during his freshman and sophomore years. He was the guy who always carried a football with him, even when he went to class, because he was so concerned about fumbling. “I hold it and play with it and get comfortable with it,” Becton explained. “If I can get the ball to be part of the body, it won’t let go. I pride myself on not fumbling.” (by William F. Reed)

Here’s more on Lee Becton, from the story in Scholastic Magazine, Carried Away: Overcoming injuries, the fabulous number 4 rampaged through his senior season. (By Mark Mitchell)

“I was just lying there on the field. I couldn’t move.” Lee Becton stares into the distance as he remembers the day he suffered what could have been a season ending injury. “It scared me a Iot as I lay there with the trainers all around me because I had no idea of the severity of the injury. I just thought that could be the last day I ever played football.” . Fortunately for the Irish captain, his groin injury did heal, though slowly. He was able to come back to the team late in the season and performed up to his own extraordinary standards at the USC game. ‘’That wasn’t the greatest result as far as games go, but that was the greatest game for me because I really felt that I was finally able to be involved with the offense and to produce on the field.”

Producing big results for the offense has been the tailback’s trademark for the last three years. Becton had outstanding seasons in 1992 and 1993, and was just getting his game going when he got injured. Even before his injury sidelined him for several games, Becton felt that this season started on weak footing: “I fumbled twice in the Michigan game, and that’s very uncharacteristic of me.” So uncharacteristic, in fact, that he had not fumbled in two years. But Becton continued: “After every game we’d second-guess ourselves and my biggest regrets came from how I played. But you can’t let what could have happened get you down.” In his four years with the Fighting Irish, Lee Becton witnessed his team achieve a whole spectrum of results, from its number one ranking last year to the disheartening losses of this year. ‘’The most incredible for me was the comeback against BC last year. We lost the game, but to be down 21 points with eight minutes left and then to take the lead - anything is possible, anything can happen.”

Though his senior season was not the brightest, the events on the football field this year have not dimmed Becton’s memories of his four years at Notre Dame. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting people around campus, doing simple things, having fun, playing SEGA. The greatest thing about all of it is that some of these people that I have met will become famous politicians and presidents of Fortune 500 companies, and someday I can say, ‘Wow, I knew that person.’

“Like many students, Becton’s college career has had its rough spots, especially in his first year. “Coming from North Carolina I had felt cold weather before, but not like this. That first winter -the first time I felt an eighty-below wind chill- I was ready to pack my bags and head home.” It was Becton’s friends who helped him through the chill of his freshman year. “Germaine Holden is my all-time greatest friend, and as a freshman in the same dorm we spent a lot of time talking and crying together. He’s the reason I’m still here.” Again, during the injury scare of his senior year, Becton’s friends showed him their support. ‘’The guys on the team helped me to stay involved, leading the team and showing the guys who filled in for me how to get the job done.”

And this right here is my favorite part of the article ... Whether he goes on to professional football or into business back in North Carolina, Lee Becton can look back on his time at Notre Dame and know that he has achieved something. “Graduation will be my greatest accomplishment That’s what I came to college for, and that’s what I’m going to be proudest of.”

Of course every college football player dreams of playing in the NFL, but getting that degree should be something that every athlete walks away with from college. Sports careers do not last forever, and having that toolbox to carry you through the next forty years is absolutely invaluable. Not only that, the adversity Lee Becton faced during his time at Notre Dame prepared him for adversities he would face later in life, because very few lives come without some challenges. I’m so glad I went to Notre Dame, because the adversity I faced at Notre Dame prepared me for the tough times I would face in my life. I already knew how to shake myself off, get up, and try again; and I thank Notre Dame for that. Okay ... enough of my rambling. I hope you enjoyed this week’s walk down memory lane. Until next week ... Cheers & GO IRISH!