By Jackson Lord
Kelvin Beachum might be the NFL’s most fascinating man.
He’s certainly one of the busiest, he prides himself on helping others.
Beachum is a philanthropist, humanitarian, small-business investor and a big-time tech geek. Oh, and he’s also responsible for protecting the blind side of the New York Jets’ 21-year-old franchise quarterback.
“Man, Beach is a very interesting guy,” right tackle Brandon Shell said. “He’s so smart and he’s always got something going on.”
Beachum’s offseason itinerary is loaded with a laundry list of interests and passions that would make even the most organized person sweat.
He’s a left tackle first, though, an invaluable part of rookie Sam Darnold’s offensive line.
“I’ve got to make sure I keep him clean,” Beachum said. “I take pride in that. I love it. The thing is, pressure either busts pipes or makes diamonds. I’m all about making diamonds.”
The 29-year-old Beachum is a big man with big blocks and an even bigger heart.
This week is an important one off the field for Beachum, who’s a public advocate in the fight against hunger. In conjunction with World Food Day on Tuesday, he has donated $5,000 to the Food Bank For New York City and challenged New Yorkers by pledging to double that amount if they matched his support. He has done the same with food banks in Texas — Mexia, where he grew up, and Dallas, where he went to college at SMU — as well as in the cities of his previous two NFL stops: Jacksonville, Florida; and Pittsburgh. The total contribution could reach $75,000 and provide 375,000 meals.
“What it does for me is it allows me to keep things in perspective,” said Beachum, whose interest in humanitarian efforts was sparked by a canned food drive in college. “I was one of those kids that was on food stamps growing up. We had to lean on the WIC program. We had people who helped us out. So, for me, that keeps me grounded, honestly, because I was there.”
While Beachum and his family didn’t have much growing up in Mexia, they had work ethic. Beachum’s grandfather was blind, but worked on cars — still does, even at 91 — and taught Beachum’s father to do so, too.
So, all Beachum knows is working hard and keeping busy. And helping anyone he can.
“When I set out to play ball, all I wanted to do was make sure my mother and dad didn’t have to work anymore,” he said. “Like, I could cut a check at any point in time and be like, ‘Hey, it’s done. Do what you want to. Go play with the cows out there.’
“And if I wanted to right now, I could. So, it’s like I’ve accomplished that. But, they still want to work, which is fine with me. But, I feel like I’d lose drive if I try to sit back and try to reflect on what’s happened.”
And there’s plenty.
Beachum focuses on two areas in his philanthropy: One, ending hunger domestically and worldwide, and two, advocating a STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — curriculum in schools across the country.
He partnered with the UT Tyler Ingenuity Center to launch his first annual STEM initiative in Mexia in 2016 as a part of his Kelvin Konnects program. Beachum has returned to his hometown every spring to reach underserved students in grades 3 through 12.
Through the World Vision organization, Beachum has also become a voice for global clean water access and pushed for the development of water systems that serve as pipelines for communities.
A trip a few years ago to Honduras gave him a firsthand look at how some areas of the world struggle with even bare necessities, seeing the paths young children would take to go up and down hills to retrieve clean water.
“When I think about what’s going on globally, you can’t even get into that hunger conversation because some countries don’t even have access to clean water,” Beachum said. “Even still in Flint, Michigan, they don’t have access to clean water, which I don’t understand being here in America, a very rich, very developed, very industrialized country, where a city in a very populated state doesn’t have access to clean water. So, if that’s going on here in America, just think about what’s going on globally.”
Beachum has also become a shrewd businessman, with an injury on the football field actually helping open some of those doors.
He was rehabilitating from a torn knee ligament while playing for Pittsburgh in 2015 when he considered getting an MBA from Carnegie Mellon. A chance meeting with John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications and a Steelers fan — Beachum sent him a jersey to initiate the conversation — changed all that.
“He was like, ‘Kelvin, just think about this: Instead of going to get your MBA, just listen to me and allow me to mentor you and think about business differently,'” Beachum recalled. “And, I took his advice.”
Beachum went to San Francisco in February 2016 during the week of the Super Bowl and set up meetings with people representing the likes of Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, to see how the backend of those companies worked. He visited with venture capital firms and listened to Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana speak about angel investing and early stage investing.
Beachum then continued to do more research and began networking — with anyone and everyone.
He has since invested in several small-business ventures, with one of his latest being Affinity, which created a smart CRM (customer relationship management) that is “like a LinkedIn on steroids,” according to Beachum.
“It’s great to have money, but for me, it’s bigger than money,” said the married father of two. “What can I hand down to my kids? What can I hand down to my kids’ kids? … In the African-American community, that’s not something that you hear about a lot is not only creating wealth, but how do you create generational wealth where you have something to pass down for a number of generations? So for me, that’s the type of thinking that really excites me.”
And, the kid in him also has him dabbling in drone technology. He’s fascinated by how companies can use them for business purposes, such as inspecting sites in industrial locations or delivering medicine and supplies to third-world countries.
“I think drones are kind of that new frontier technology that’s out there,” he said, “that’s going to make the world a better place.”
That’s also what Beachum has been striving to do.
One helping hand at a time.
“I feel like Beach is like a really wise guy, a wise man,” Jets teammate Spencer Long said. “He’s just got that vibe. He uses his platform really well and what he can do with what he’s been given.
“Beach truly understands the big picture.”