By Kim Constantinesco
Perhaps in a different lifetime, Denver Broncos’ starting left guard Zane Beadles was an elephant roaming the great arid deserts of Africa or stomping around luscious evergreen forests in Asia. His size wouldn’t be the only thing that indicates the possiblity, however.
For Beadles, protecting and providing come second nature, which is the main reason why the Broncos took the former Utah Ute in the second round (45th overall) of the 2010 draft. Beadles is a 6’4,” 305- pound pushing, pulling, and pancake blocking machine. Perfect for protecting eventual $96 million man, Peyton Manning.
“I think of myself as an elephant,” Beadles said. “If I were an animal, I could be an elephant. Elephants are intelligent animals, they’re passionate, they’re large animals, they’re very pack oriented. When one elephant dies in the parade, they mourn for about a week. They look out for each other.”
That’s why the four-year NFL veteran uses three elephants linked together – trunk to tail – as his logo for the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation. The foundation aims to help youth who are in unfortunate situations, whether it’s kids fighting cancer or teenagers whose parents are going through a divorce.
Beadles’ “elephant ways” didn’t begin once he hit the professional ranks. They started early on growing up in Sandy, Utah, but really took front and center in 2006 during his freshman year at the University of Utah.
Sometimes the slightest shift in perspective or a chance meeting can connect like an astroid striking the earth. That’s what happened for Beadles and his Utah teammates when they met then six-year-old Ryker Fox.
“He knew he was sick and said he wanted to be buried in a Utah jersey so we kind of adopted him on the team,” Beadles said of Fox. “He would come to practice and stuff. Just watching him go through his battles, he left a big impact on me.”
Fox had Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive and malignant type of brain tumor that is very difficult to treat.
Beadles knew Fox for 13 months before he passed away just two months after his 7th birthday.
“He was a big part of our season that year,” Beadles said. “He was in the locker room with us before games. He came to our end of the year banquet.”
The Utes finished 8-5 that year, certainly not one of the school’s best years on the field. However, it may have been one of their best years in the locker room in terms of growth and reality checks. It was a case where in the midst of darkness, Fox became that sliver of light that made everything appear brighter.
“From where you sit in the athletic area and kind of watch it, you saw the reaction of Zane and the other guys,” longtime Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said. “For me, it made my day, it made my week to see how people like that respond.”
When all was said and done at Utah, Beadles started 50-of-51 career games, earned first-team All-Mountain West accolades in his final two seasons, received first-team All-America honors as a senior, and proudly walked across the stage with a degree in mechanical engineering.
“He was a fantastic guy,” Hill said. “He was a brilliant student here. He was one of our best representatives we’ve had here at the University of Utah.”
Beadles had his sights set on the NFL, but he always kept the experience of meeting Fox close to his heart. With grandparents that battled cancer as well, Beadles made it his mission to influence and inspire beyond the football field.
“The big idea is I’ve been given so many opportunities from football,” Beadles said. “Just meeting new people and new experiences in general that have helped open my eyes to the world that I want to provide that for people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to have those experiences.”
As soon as Beadles arrived in Denver, he decided he wanted to do something for kids with cancer. He found Brent’s Place, which is a “Safe-Clean” housing facility for immune compromised patients and their families. It’s a place that fosters hope and healing for families with a child who is being treated for life threatening cancer.
Beadles started Cakes for Cancer, which raises money for Brent’s Place through the Parade Foundation. For every pancake block (when an offensive lineman knocks a defender on his back and falls on top of him) by a Broncos’ offensive lineman, Beadles donates $250 to the foundation. There’s even an annual pancake breakfast at the start of the season, where fans are able to compete against Beadles and the rest of the Broncos’ offensive line in a pancake eating contest to raise money.
As Beadles’ NFL career has moved along, his foundation has as well.
“Brent’s Place is still going to be a big benefactor, but now we’re broadening our horizons and trying to help more people,” the 2012 Pro Bowl guard said.
Beadles wants to help young soldiers coming back from war, youth from low-income areas, and kids who are having trouble at home. One of his longterm visions is to start building more places around the country like Brent’s Place, probably starting with partnering up with Primary Children’s Hospital in his hometown of Salt Lake City.
Like an elephant, Beadles never forgets where he came from.
“I’ve done a lot of work to get to this point, but there’s been a lot of people in my life that have helped me get to this point also so I feel like it’s my duty to be able to give back because of the platform I’ve been given and because of the opportunities I’ve been given to come out here and play a game for a living.”
For Beadles, inspiring on the field means being a team-player and blocking like it’s nobody’s business. For the same guy, inspiring off the field means finding a parade and getting in front of it, even if it is a parade of elephants.