A special player on special teams who people now know, Eagle junior wins honor selected by his teammates
People certainly know who Darriell Beaumonte is now.
It takes special players to win national championships, and the junior standout is certainly special on special teams for the Eastern Washington University football team. Even if he admits that at one point this season, "I don't think there were more than three or four people who even knew my name."
At last week's Eastern Football Awards banquet, Beaumonte (pronounced Bo-mawn-TAY) was selected by his teammates as the Special Teams Player of the Year for helping lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I Championship. In November, he was chosen by Big Sky Conference head coaches as a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection on special teams.
In winning the team award, he edged out senior returner/cornerback Jesse Hoffman for the honor. Hoffman set Big Sky Conference and school records with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2010, a feat only four players at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision were able to accomplish. Beaumonte served on that special team, as well as punt return, kickoff coverage, punt coverage and field goal/point after touchdown units.
Beaumonte is a 2007 graduate of Clover Park High School and is from Lakewood, Wash. Also an Eastern running back, on special teams he finished the season with 15 tackles and two blocked kicks, one of which he returned for a touchdown in Eastern's 36-27 win over Montana. He also rushed for 219 yards and a pair of scores and caught 11 passes for 65 yards and a TD. In his career, he has 26 total tackles, has rushed for 379 yards and has caught 16 passes for 132 yards.
A communications major who is scheduled to graduate next June, Beaumonte also helps as a broadcaster for Eastern women's basketball internet broadcasts. He was raised in a foster family, and vows to get his college degree to help increase a rather startling statistic. Among college students raised in a foster family, just 1.8 percent -- or "one person and one person with his head cut off" as Beaumonte says -- go on to actually receive their degrees.
Currently, Beaumonte and his teammates are going through strength and conditioning workouts in preparation for the 2011 season. Spring practice for the Eagles is expected to begin on April 1.
Q: Until you saw the season highlights at the Football Awards Banquet, had you forgotten all about the night in Frisco, Texas, when you won the national title?
A: "Definitely never -- there is no way you can forget about that at any point. It never gets old -- it's one of those things you can watch over and over. I've probably seen the highlights a million times, but every time I watch them it brings back the same feelings."
Q: When people say "National Champions," do you still have to pinch yourself because you think you're dreaming?
A: "For me, I guess it hasn't sunk in all the way yet. I guess it will sink in for me more when I see my ring. That will be the closing memory to forever say we're champs."
Q: Your teammates voted you as Special Teams Player of the Year. Does that in itself makes it special to win an award selected by your teammates?
A: "When I won All-Big Sky honors as a special teams player, that was already a tremendous honor because I wasn't expecting that. It isn't very often a special teams player who isn't a returner is recognized. It was like they gave it to a random guy who plays on special teams. But when my teammates voted for me, I think that meant even more than when the head coaches in the conference selected me. Your teammates see you working hard and they know you are working and doing your thing."
Q: The rumor is that Jesse Hoffman was campaigning with his teammates pretty heavily to get that award. Only joking, but what do you think of what Jesse did on special teams this season?
A: "If he would have gotten the award I would have been the person clapping the hardest for him. I'm on the return team that he's on, so I feel like if he would have won I would have been a part of it anyway. I'm blocking for him when he's returning the kicks so it was exciting to have him return three to the house. He's a senior and there are only a couple of guys in the nation who did what he did."
Q: What is the hammer award? You walked away with a big hammer at the end of the banquet.
A: "We started it this year -- we call it the Savage Hammer Award. Being savages is our special teams theme -- that's what we hang our hat on. It's a total mentality we have to have, and the hammer is the representation of that. The person who gets it each week is the player who goes the hardest on special teams. It could be the hardest hit or the most effort on a particular play, but most of the time he just comes down to making great plays on special teams."
Q: Are you planning on using that hammer on some freshmen who weren't quite with it this year?
A: "Not exactly. I plan on using it as a symbol of hard work. I'm going to hang it in my locker."
Q: What is it about playing on special teams that makes it special for you?
A: "When you are young and you are working your way up, on that first day of practice you don't know anybody, you're scared and you are essentially a little kid. The coaches tell you if you want to make it on the travel roster, you better get on special teams. So you bust your butt trying to get on the special teams units. Everybody can't be a starter, especially when you have a terrific player like Taiwan Jones ahead of you. You know you aren't going to play all that much, so you have to find where you fit in and do your best. For me it was a pride thing -- whatever I do I just take pride in doing it well and want to be the best at it. If that means being a kick-blocking specialist, running down on coverage or just blocking, I love it. It's all football."
Q: Besides all your tackles, you had a couple of blocked kicks too, including one against Montana you returned yourself for a touchdown. Talk about the Montana game and your block in that game.
A: "It was weird because that was the first time I played that exact position on that special team. I was always more on the inside and I would be just a hold-up guy so the returner can field the kick and return it. But we went to a different style on that particular play where the returner was basically just a safety valve to catch it. We wanted to get after the punt more, and my hat is off to special teams coach Jeff Schmedding. He noticed on video during the week that they were a little weak on the edge. So at the beginning of the week when we were studying film he moved me to the outside. He just told me to do what I do and pound on them all day. I kept pounding on him and I finally got the best of him. I got back there to make the block."
Q: At the time, you probably couldn't have imagined a better highlight in your career.
A: "No, not at all. Before that, I don't think there were more than three or four people who even knew my name. It was a big moment for me, and the magnitude of it coming against Montana was the pinnacle of plays you can make in your life. It will be something I will never forget and will cherish all of my life."
Q: Your other block came against Portland State, but you originally didn't get credit for it. T.J. Lee picked it up and ran it in, so, from now on, are you going to have to block them and return them to get credit?
A: "I guess I have to do that to get my due credit, but I didn't mind that somebody else got credit. We blocked the kick and it was a team effort. If it wasn't for the players who got in there first and took on the blocks, I wouldn't have been able to jump up and get it. It's always a team effort."
Q: With 26 tackles in your career, are you going to catch J.C. Sherritt now?
A: "(Laughing) I'm nowhere near J.C. My personality and whole mindset every time I go out there on special teams is that I want to make the tackle. You don't get too many tackle opportunities on special teams, so when you're out there you just want to make the best of them. I try to just do whatever I can to get to the ball. You have to be hungry. Besides all the skills and the fundamentals, it comes down to heart and passion. You have to have the knack to get to the ball."
Q: There's a rumor out there that the reason Taiwan Jones decided not to come back was that he didn't want the competition from you next season?
A: "(Laughing harder) That's definitely not it. I would try to give him a run for his money, but he has me beat hands down. He's pursuing a better career in the NFL, trying to live the dream we all want to have."
Q: You lose a great running back, but you still have to be excited about what the team can do at that position next year.
A: "We are looking forward to it. We are bringing in some different running backs, but it just makes me smile. It drives me harder and gives me the hunger to work harder. Everything will tell its tale on the field."
Q: How did you get involved with doing the internet broadcasts for women's basketball games?
A: "I would joke around with Coach (Chris) Hansen that I wanted to do it, but he said 'I don't see you being that kind of guy at all.' But there was an opening and I just went and talked to the right people. At first I did color, but I learned and observed and now I'm doing play-by-play."
Q: Are there any predictions you can make for the defending Big Sky champion women's basketball team now that you are a media expert?
"If you ask my friends, I've thought of myself as an expert for a long time. Our women have been an up and down team this year. They have a lot of experience at the top, but they have a lot of younger players too. They have a nice mix and it's just a matter of how they can pull it together. Who knows, the sky is the limit for them."
Q: Broadcasters take pride in saying names correctly, so why have we been saying your name incorrectly all this time. Instead of "Bo-mont," it should be "Bo-mawn-TAY," right?
A: "It is correctly pronounced Bo-mawn-TAY, yes. But with me, it's just the type of person I am. It's not like I'm going to jump on people for saying my name wrong -- it's been butchered since I was in kindergarten. I got over that a long time ago and it's never been a big deal for me."
Q: You came from a foster family. How has that molded you as a person, as a player and as a student-athlete here at Eastern?
A: "It just gives you a drive and a certain passion, and a determination to succeed. Foster kids can go one of two ways. And if you choose the right path it just shows you are a fighter and you can get through anything."
Q: Basically only two percent of foster children who enter college get a degree. When did you hear that fact and how did that impact you?
"It's actually 1.8 percent. I knew it was low, but I couldn't imagine that it was less than two percent. I feel like I have to get that degree and the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I'm ready for the challenge. Essentially 1.8 percent means one person and one person with his head cut off graduate out of 100 students each year. That's crazy. I feel like maybe I can help raise up that statistic. I plan on getting my degree and not struggle after I graduate -- I'm going to have a good life."
Q: Is a repeat national championship a sure thing for the Eagles next season?
A: "It's definitely in the bank because we worked hard last year and we're working 10 times harder this year."