The guy who guards Eli Manning’s back also fixes his father’s pants

Will Beatty. (Will Beatty's Facebook page)
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Each time the Giants or Jets play a football game, Capital will write about a home-team member who took part in it. This post is about Will Beatty, who played offensive tackle in the Giants’ 36-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Will Beatty, the Giants' third-year left tackle who is a full-time starter for the first time this year, has the potential to be a mainstay at the position for years to come. But during yesterday’s loss, he did what many of his teammates did, especially his fellow offensive linemen: He showcased the worst version of himself.

During the season’s first four games, Beatty, 26, whose primary responsibility is to protect Eli Manning’s blind side, was beaten for only one sack. He allowed two sacks yesterday, both on around-the-bend rushes by Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons. (To be fair, Clemons is one of the best speed-rushers in the league and one of the toughest assignments for a left tackle.)

Also, Beatty committed an untimely false-start penalty on a late-fourth-quarter drive that pushed the Giants, needing a touchdown, back from the 5-yard-line to the 10. We can’t say for sure that there was a connection between the penalty and the catastrophic interception-returned-for-a-touchdown that immediately followed, but it was certainly an untimely mental lapse.

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Beatty also probably deserves some share of the blame for the Giants vexingly poor running game, which amassed just 2.8 yards per carry yesterday and now ranks third-to-last in the league with a per carry average of 3.2.

It all amounted to a crimp in what had seemed like a good start for the Giants and Beatty, a second-round draft pick in 2009. Heading into yesterday, Beatty ranked 14th out of the league’s 32 left tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, a website with the ambitious mission of grading each NFL player on every play. That’s pretty good for a first-year starter playing with linemates who have performed poorly this year. But after yesterday, for both Beatty and the Giants, it’s clear that the jury is still out.

Yesterday’s failures notwithstanding, Beatty has quick, graceful footwork even by the standards of left tackles, a species of player famous for their freakish agility relative to their size. The knock on Beatty has always been his size and strength, but he bumped his playing weight from 305 pounds last year to 319 this year.

The added weight has made a big difference, he told me over the phone the Thursday before the game.

“If you do get a wrong footing, you have the strength to recover,” he said.

He's still getting better. His upside lies in improving his technique and his consistency, and also in getting even stronger, especially in the lower body so that he can improve his run blocking.

“I have to work on continuing after that initial pop, just driving my feet, so that when the running back comes through, he has that two-foot clearance,” he said.

Then I asked him what his best quality was as a player. Beatty’s gentle, thoughtful demeanor is 180 degrees from the stereotypical image of a 320-pound man whose smashes his body into others for a living. Given this, I shouldn’t have been too surprised by his response: “My open-mindedness,” he said, before explaining how receptive he is about ways to improve his game.

It's true, actually. Beatty is nothing if not open-minded, whether that applies to football or anything else. And he's a man of many talents.

Example 1: Beatty had a severe speech impediment as a kid that prevented most people from understanding what he was saying, other than his older sister. Perhaps because of this, Beatty turned to music (he plays the piano) and art.

“He tried to communicate, but he couldn’t make us understand," said his father, Keith Beatty. "But he could draw us pictures.”

Beatty’s speech impediment was solved by the time he was 10, but he kept up with the art. During his senior year of high school, Beatty received scholarship offers from two schools for football and from one school for art.

Example 2: He knows how to sew. One Christmas, he sewed clothes for his mother as a gift, and he also tailors his father's pants. He chose football as a career path, but that hasn’t stopped him from launching a clothing line, the William Beatty Apparel Company.

“You gotta know Will,” Keith explained. “He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t go to bars, he doesn’t hang out. So all his hobbies are within the house.”

Example 3: He can cook. At the University of Connecticut, he cooked Thanksgiving dinner for his teammates who couldn’t afford to go home to their families.

It’s part of what Beatty described as his “protective instinct,” which was passed down to him from Keith, who ran a program for troubled youth in Beatty’s hometown of York, Penn. This explains Beatty’s own charity work, which is so extensive and sincere as to blow away any cynicism surrounding athlete charity as a P.R. obligation and a tax write-off. On his Facebook fan page, in response to the question, “How would you describe yourself in three words?” Beatty wrote: “Kind Loving Bear.”

The “protective instinct” dovetails with Beatty’s devout Christianity, which shows up in Bible verses and other spiritual musings on his Twitter feed. The Beattys are a deeply religious family. Both Keith and his wife, Sylvia, Beatty’s mother, are pastors. Several years ago, Sylvia believed she had a vision from God to uproot the family from York to start a church in the Phoenix, Ariz. area. The Beattys moved shortly thereafter.

THE PROTECTIVE INSTINCT ALSO TRANSLATES WELL to Beatty's job on the field, which is protecting his quarterback from getting drilled in the back by defensive players he does not see.

Getting Beatty to focus on this, sometimes to the exclusion of all the other stuff, had been a challenge when he was in high school. Enter Coach Randy Edsall at the University of Connecticut, which was one of just two schools that recruited Beatty after his high school coach in York gave him a bad recommendation.

Edsall played quarterback at Syracuse University under a maniacally intense offensive coordinator named Tom Coughlin, and then later coached under Coughlin at Boston College. Edsall took after his mentor: Both men were firm, demanding and unrelenting. When Beatty arrived on campus, he became Edsall’s pet project.

“I saw a good kid with athletic ability and intelligence who was a good person," said Edsall, who is now head coach at the University of Maryland. "But he didn’t have the focus and self-motivation at that time to get where he needed to go."

Beatty redshirted his freshman year, but showed up at the practice facility at 6 a.m. most mornings.

“He did a lot of stairs, a lot of bear crawls, a lot of pushups, a lot of situps," Edsall said. “It was getting him to understand, ‘You have to be on time. You have to be accountable if you’re gonna be successful in life.’”

At one point, Edsall theorized that a car Beatty’s parents had given him had become a distraction. Edsall phoned the Beatty home, asking them to take it away.

“'Coach, you have our blessing,’” Keith Beatty recalls telling Edsall. “’Do what you have to do.’”

He did what he had to do, and so did Beatty: By his final year, Beatty had blossomed into one of the best linemen in the country. That spring, Tom Coughlin called his old quarterback.

Edsall recalls: “I said, ‘Coach, you will not have a problem with him. He needs a coach who’s gonna be demanding of him, who’s gonna hold him accountable.’”

Edsall added, “When they drafted him, I knew it was the perfect fit.”