SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeremy Beal will leave Oklahoma after playing his final game on Saturday as one of the program's most decorated defenders. He's thrice been named an all-conference performer, landed on an All-American team and culminated his career by being named the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
He's reserved a spot as one of the best players ever to wear the crimson and cream, but just a few years ago, Oklahoma didn't think he was good enough to even suit up for the scout team.
Beal's high school coach in Carrollton, Texas, brought him to Norman for a camp and a chance to be seen by Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, whose jaw didn't exactly drop at what was in front of him.
"If you saw him, he wasn’t physically imposing. He was a bigger guy, but he didn’t look -- I don’t know -- he wasn’t impressive looking," Venables said. "He didn’t move impressively."
Thanks, but no thanks, the Sooners said, saving their scholarship offer and setting their sights on a five-star defensive end elsewhere.
December arrived. Beal's coach returned. This time, he had game tape of Beal's most recent season. Having already been turned down, he wasn't badgering Venables, but the two had forged a relationship through a decade of recruiting, and his coach just wanted to know where Beal should be looking to play if Oklahoma wasn't where he belonged.
"You just watched a few plays and you were like, 'This guy is incredible,'" Venables said.
The Sooners' defensive coordinator put the tape in front of head coach Bob Stoops, who asked a simple question: "Can we get him?"
Venables called his prospective five-star recruit and said the Sooners' 2006 class of defensive ends was full.
"He goes and doesn’t have a career remotely close to what Jeremy has had, so it goes to show you," Venables said, "the tape don’t lie."
He saw one player in drills against punching-bag offensive linemen. On the field against the real thing, he saw another. Considering football isn't played with blocking sleds protecting quarterbacks, Venables made the right choice.
That inconsistency is ironic considering the one thing about Beal that coaches can't stop raving about.
"The most impressive thing about Jeremy Beal is he’s the same guy every day," Venables said. "I could count on one finger how many guys are that way on our defense. It’s him."
"Every day," Stoops added with a shake of the head.
That's showed up for the Sooners' defensive line, where Beal has started all 40 games for Oklahoma in the past three seasons and added another two as a freshman. In those past three seasons, he's had at least 8.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss every year, making a name for himself as the best pure pass-rusher in the conference and one of its best linemen.
"He’s the model for consistency, and as a coach it’s easy to overlook that," Venables said. "Players certainly don’t value it, it kind of has to be who you are. He’s got a tremendous strength to him and discipline and maturity. He’s had that since the day he got here.
"That’s pretty good for a guy who initially got turned down from a scholarship-offer standpoint. It’s a tremendous reflection of the type of parenting he had growing up and the type of coaching he had, because he walked through the door that way."
That parenting has transferred from his home back in Texas to the campus in Norman.
"He’s the leader. He keeps everyone straight, making sure everyone’s being responsible on the field as well as off the field," said senior safety Quinton Carter.
Beal personifies the strong, quiet-more-than-silent type, but that consistency says plenty. At least enough for Beal to be named a team captain before the season.
"When Jeremy speaks, people listen. That model of consistency and the way he studies tape, answers questions in the meeting room, he is always locked in," Venables said.
That's not to say he isn't saying plenty when he isn't saying anything.
"It’s obvious with his work ethic. He’s a great student and never in trouble, and then it just carries over to the football field," said Carter, a member of the AFCA Good Works team himself.
Beal will have one last go wearing that uniform on Saturday. What might be in doubt is the game's outcome. What won't be is Beal's output.
"I’ve had a lot of success. I wouldn’t trade it for anything," Beal said. "When I first showed up, I always knew I belonged here."