College News & Analysis

“Why not me?”: Cooper Beebe’s unlikely rise to becoming one of the best offensive linemen in college football

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Cooper Beebe is the best interior offensive lineman in college football and is a projected first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. However, it didn’t always look like he was destined for stardom.

Beebe wasn’t even one of the top 1,300 recruits in On3’s industry rankings coming out of Piper high school in 2019, but he never let that phase him.

“It didn’t matter what my rating was,” Beebe said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “I just wanted to prove to myself that I can play big-time college football and eventually prove to the world that I was a player. I was going to show people what I was about.”

He received three offers coming out of high school: Minnesota, Kansas and Kansas State. Since the Kansas City native wanted to remain close to home, his decision came down to the latter two. On a trip to Kansas, his decision was essentially made for him.

“One of the coaches at KU was a good friend of my dad's,” Beebe said. “When I visited, he straight up told me, ‘We’re going to get fired. Don’t come here.’ So that threw me off Kansas. When I visited Kansas State, it really felt like home.” 

Beebe entered the Little Apple thinking he’d be playing defensive tackle, which is what he was listed at coming out of high school. That changed almost immediately.

“I was going in the whole time thinking I was playing defensive tackle,” Beebe said. “Originally, they were going to have me wear No. 98 to play defensive tackle. I got there the first day with my dad. We go down to the locker room and I’m like ‘Oh, OK I’m going to go check out my locker.’ I see No. 50 on my nameplate. I look at my dad and I go, “Uh, I think I’m going to be playing offensive line.’” 

Suffice to say, it was a change Beebe wasn’t ecstatic about at first. 

“I always liked playing defense,” Beebe said with a laugh. “They get all the publicity and make the big plays. When I got moved to the offensive line, I was like ‘Dang, nobody’s going to know who I am.’ It was a good change though. I feel like I’m more natural at offensive line anyways.”

The theme of not knowing his position has persisted throughout Beebe’s four seasons with the Wildcats. In 2020, he was the starting right tackle. The next season, he flipped to left tackle. This past year, he kicked inside to left guard. 

“I always tell our offensive line coach, ‘Wherever you need me to play, I’ll play,’” Beebe said. “I’ve also been working at center this offseason so I could get the whole spectrum going. It’s definitely difficult, though. Even just switching from right tackle to left tackle is a huge change that I don’t think people realize. You need to learn how to pass-set the other way. Out at tackle, you have time and space you need to deal with. At guard, the dudes are right on you.” 

If it really is that hard, Beebe hasn’t made it look like it, especially in pass protection. Over the last two seasons, his 94.0 pass-blocking grade leads all offensive linemen in college football. On 770 pass-blocking snaps in that span, he hasn’t allowed a single sack. 

Beebe enters his fifth season as the best returning interior offensive lineman and went No. 26 overall in my way-too-early 2024 NFL mock draft. While he’s excited about fulfilling his lifelong dream of making it to the league, Beebe can’t help but also feel a bit of anxiety.

“It’s exciting, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking,” Beebe said. “It’s definitely a huge step. The NFL has always been a dream of mine and to know you’re right there is super exciting. When we got the extra year because of COVID [in 2020], I was like ‘Oh, let’s go, one more year of college.’ Now, I really have a shot at the NFL. All of my goals are right there in front of me, now I just need to keep grinding.”

Beebe could’ve been beginning that dream now by declaring for the 2023 draft, where he would’ve been one of the top interior offensive linemen. One of the reasons Beebe decided to return to Kansas State was to play with his brother. Camden Beebe is a three-star recruit in the 2023 class and will also play along the interior offensive line with his older brother, who will be mentoring him from Day 1. 

“That was one of the reasons why I came back,” Beebe said. “Since he plays the same position as me, I’ve been trying to give him all the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years. I want to put him on the right track. As an older brother, you always want your younger brother to achieve more than you.”

While helping his brother continue the Beebe legacy at Kansas State was a major reason for his return, he also wanted to cement his own legacy as a Wildcat.

“One of the other reasons I came back was to try to make Kansas State’s Ring of Honor,” Beebe said. “The top players that played at Kansas State are in there like Jordy Nelson, Darren Sproles and Collin Klein. That’s where I want to see myself. If I’m fortunate to be there, I’ll have that forever. I think I’ve put myself in a great position to be considered but one more year might put me over the edge.”

“I look at that wall and say, ‘Why not me?’”

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