As an offensive lineman in the National Football League, Kelvin Beachum understands that strong egos can be barriers to teamwork, to implementing strategic game plans and ultimately to winning. So his message for the global development community is simple — “drop the egos.”
Whether on the football field fending off blitzing linebackers or in rural Honduras championing food and water security, the Jacksonville Jaguar and former Pittsburgh Steeler takes pride in staying humble and thinking strategically about his goals and how to achieve them.
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 303 pounds, Beachum is considered small for his position — one that requires blocking often bigger and taller defensive lineman and protecting his quarterback from hard hitting linebackers. But Beachum has earned his place on the field by studying his opponents, crafting game plans and holding his ground.
Off the field, Beachum puts this same strategic approach to use in his efforts to tackle hunger. During the off-season, the 27-year-old husband and father dedicates much of his time to feeding hungry mouths and advocating for food security, both internationally and domestically.
When it comes to an ambitious global goal such as ending hunger, Beachum is optimistic that it is possible. But to achieve this goal, the global community needs to work together in a way it hasn’t yet been able to, according to the offensive lineman.
“Drop the egos and really come together,” Beachum said.
Such a message is just as applicable in sports circles as it is in politics and global development, Beachum said, and added that while it’s a simple message, it can often seem complex because it hasn’t yet been achieved, at least with hunger.
But it can be done, Beachum stressed.
“I want to see progress and I want to be a part of the progress,” Beachum said, adding, “At the end of the day it’s for the people who don’t have.”
Acting vs. advocating
Earlier this year, Beachum traveled to the rural and mountainous community of San Juan, Honduras, to visit a school funded by World Vision and wrote an op-ed about the importance of nutritious foods in communities such as San Juan. He used the opportunity to promote the Global Food Security Act, legislation that U.S. President Barack Obama is now poised to sign into law and that would add additional support to farmers and agricultural innovation in poor communities.
But Beachum would rather be recognized as an “agent” for change rather than just an advocate.
“I take the verbiage that goes around my name very seriously,” Beachum told Devex, adding that his work is not about advocating, but about doing.
“I like ‘agent,’ because I’m on the move, I’m taking actions. Actions speak louder than words, and in hunger, you have to move forward, things have to be progressing,” Beachum said.
The lineman doesn’t just speak out about hunger when he feels like it or has the time. He’s developed a whole strategy in order to be a part of tangible progress in the sector.
Beachum has developed a team of about five people who help him plan and communicate. As training camp approaches and a new season gets set to begin, Beachum’s focus will be on football. The team works year-round so that the offensive tackle doesn’t lose momentum during the busy season, and they help him stay “on the cusp of” communication through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Beachum also hopes to launch a YouTube page in the near future.
“I hold my team to a high standard to be able to put things in place,” he said.
The offensive lineman also partners with organizations dedicated to tackling hunger domestically and internationally, including World Vision, Bread for the World and Feeding America.
“We do some special things together,” Beachum said, adding, “when you work with other like-minded people … you’re able to accomplish what you want to accomplish.”
Growing up in a Pentecostal family in the small town of Mexia, Texas, Beachum and his three younger siblings learned from an early age the value of hospitality and the power of good food.
“We give my mom a hard time… we used to call the house ‘Salvation Army,’ because we would take in so many people,” Beachum said. “My mother loved feeding people. She still loves doing it.”
And Beachum understands why. He too has developed a passion for feeding others, including his teammates. He especially likes to grill.
“It’s a blessing to be able to invest in somebody, and when you invest in their stomach, you’re doing something that can help them and hold them off for a little while,” Beachum said. “You really can’t talk to anybody if they’re hungry, so when you’re able to feed them, you’re able to get to them and get to know them a little better.”
When Beachum was in college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, he worked with the North Texas Food Bank and later, when his grandfather went into a nursing home, his grandmother’s benefits were cut.
“She had to start deciding between health care and food and gas and air conditioning and all those things that a grandmother shouldn’t have to deal with,” Beachum said, adding, “If my grandmother’s dealing with hunger issues, I know this is a systemic issue that I can help with.”
Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.
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