Harrison Beck came to Lincoln with the world on his shoulders.
The 4-star quarterback was hailed as the talisman of Nebraska’s 2005 recruiting class, the anointed savior sent to save Nebraska football.
His career developed in stark contrast to this hope when Beck unceremoniously departed a year-and-a-half later, completing just one pass in his Nebraska career. Even still, Beck remains the confident and brash individual who arrived in Lincoln 14 years ago.
In the world of college football, things move fast. As an eighth-grader living in Charlotte, North Carolina, Beck received his first scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina. In ninth grade, other offers started rolling in. Purdue and Stanford, along with local schools such as North Carolina State, Duke and East Carolina, all saw the talent Beck possessed.
After moving to Florida, his relative stardom at Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida only served to increase the national spotlight surrounding Beck. Miami, Michigan and Mississippi all gave Beck their best sales pitches.
After committing to Nebraska in June 2004, he remembered receiving a call from then-Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe following Nebraska’s 70-10 loss to Texas Tech during which the head coach tried to convince him to reconsider his commitment to Nebraska.
“I said, ‘Yeah I’m still committed to Nebraska,’ and he said, ‘You sure? Don’t you know Ole Miss has the hottest girls in the country?’ It’s things like that that happen to you,” Beck said.
While unwavering in his commitment to Nebraska, Beck said he had to pinch himself when homestate school Florida State, led by legendary coach Bobby Bowden, offered him a scholarship. Beck said Florida State was like Alabama at the time, making it a big deal for him to receive the offer.
“When I went to school, I almost didn’t want to tell people, because I thought they weren’t going to believe me,” Beck said. “But then I did, because it was awesome and I’m awesome and everyone needs to know how awesome I am.”
Confidence was always a hallmark of Beck’s spirit. It was then, and it still is to this day. But ultimately, that confidence served to be his undoing at Nebraska.
The timing of Beck’s arrival in Lincoln seemed perfect for the young quarterback to make a quick impression.
Nebraska was coming off its first losing season since 1961, as Bill Callahan’s first season in charge of the team led to just a 5-6 record. The team’s former starting quarterback, Joe Dailey, transferred to North Carolina after the season ended. Given the rest of the players on the roster had a total of three completions during the 2004 season, the stage was set for a quarterback competition.
Beck was a top candidate for the job, but his competition was strong. Zac Taylor, a junior transfer from Butler County Community College, won the starting job and started every game in Nebraska’s 2005 season.
“Honestly, when I went to Nebraska, I was just kind of like, ‘Why do I have to watch Zac Taylor throw a football?’” Beck said. “It’s embarrassing compared to me throwing a football. Why am I just standing here?”
Beck appeared in just two games as a freshman, first in a comeback effort against Kansas State and then in a blowout victory over Colorado. Following an injury to Taylor against the Wildcats, Beck had to step up and lead a comeback effort. Despite completing just 1-6 passes for 21 yards and throwing an interception, the one completion was enough to spur Nebraska to victory.
“They did let me on the field and I beat Kansas State, fourth-quarter comeback, last-minute field goal,” Beck said.
It was the only pass Beck ever completed as a Husker. After ending his freshman season 1-10 for 21 yards, Beck expressed his frustration at not seeing the field enough.
“I just want to practice and throw and win the Heisman and go to a national title, and I’m having to deal with all this nonsense,” he said.
Beck hit the offseason with renewed desire and determination to prove his worth at Nebraska. He said he felt the results from the weightlifting program, felt more comfortable with the West Coast system and was growing more comfortable in the pocket as well.
According to local sports writers, Beck looked good in practice, making throws and showing improvement from his freshman season.
Then suddenly, on Aug. 4, 2006, Beck walked out of practice and never came back.
“I didn’t decide to transfer; I fired Nebraska,” Beck said. “I basically said, ‘You’re fired,’ like Donald Trump, and I laughed.”
After walking out of practice, Beck packed up his things and immediately drove home to Tampa Bay, Florida. Three days later, he was granted release from his scholarship, unceremoniously ending a Nebraska career that began with tremendous promise.
“I would’ve had a lot of success if I stayed at Nebraska, no questions asked,” Beck said. “I probably would have led Nebraska to a national title.”
Following his departure from Nebraska, Beck looked to reset his college career. He transferred to a school much closer to home, NC State, where he had a good relationship with the team’s head coach, Chuck Amato.
Beck joined the team for the 2006 season, sitting out the year due to transfer rules. However, his homecoming was interrupted when Amato was fired after a 3-9 season. To replace him, NC State hired Tom O’Brien, the former head coach of Boston College.
“This guy’s from the Navy, and I’m not exactly like a little pumpkin pie haircut like [former Boston College quarterback] Matt Ryan,” Beck said. “I’m kind of a savage animal, a beast.”
After beginning the year as the team’s starting quarterback in 2007, Beck struggled during the season and split time with Daniel Evans at quarterback. He threw for just 903 yards, with two touchdowns and nine interceptions.
“We knew that when he was in the game he’d take a lot of chances,” former NC State wide receiver Owen Spencer said. “... He really took command of the offense and took his chances.”
The next year was much of the same for Beck, as he struggled in limited time backing up Russell Wilson. After throwing for 592 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior, Beck decided to transfer one last time. Despite his lack of on-field success, Beck left his mark in the locker room at NC State.
“He had his own style and his own personality,” Spencer said. “At times we thought it was weird, but that was just him providing that sense of relief.”
Beck’s next stop was at Division II school North Alabama, where he could play immediately under head coach Terry Bowden. The former 5-star recruit understandably performed well at the lower level of competition, throwing for 3,823 yards along with 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“And down there, Terry let me call my plays. It was like the 1960s Johnny Unitas. He’s just like, ‘Call whatever you want, man, I trust you,’” Beck said. “Next thing you know, I throw 40 touchdowns.”
Despite a lackluster college career at the highest level, Beck’s natural arm strength provided some hope for professional aspirations. According to Beck, his former coach Bill Callahan reportedly told teams he was uncontrollable and uncoachable.
“Tom O’Brien told someone that I had the best arm he’d ever seen in his life but that I won’t listen to anybody,” Beck said.
As it had been throughout his career, Beck’s undeniable physical talents were marred by his mental approach and lack of discipline.
“There’s a story about Tajh Boyd, who was Clemson’s greatest ever quarterback stat-wise sleeping in his car [trying to get to the NFL],” Beck said. “I’m not going to do that; H. Beck’s rich. I’m a rich man. I come from a rich family. I drive a Mercedes.”
After attempted stints in the Arena Football League and playing indoor football, Beck’s football career came to an end in 2011. Nonetheless, Beck remained as confident as ever.
“My arm doesn’t need you; you need my arm,” he said.
Nowadays, Beck is famous for more than just his recruiting ranking and quarterbacking potential. He has an avid following on Instagram and Twitter, with almost 1,000 total followers, and he proclaims himself as “the internet’s first starting quarterback.”
Beck records videos of himself explaining quarterbacking techniques, with a mix of politics, life lessons and guttural yelling thrown in.
In most of his Instagram videos, Beck dons a Make America Great Again hat, and he is quick to point out how his appeal is heightened due to his political twist on quarterbacking.
“I’ve tapped into literally one of the craziest things in America right now,” Beck said. “Make America Great Again, all these QAnon conspiracy theories—every kid I know is tweeting and sending memes about the Illuminati and QAnon and the deep state, the mainstream media and fake news.”
While his brash, overt tones may dissuade some users from viewing his content, Beck believes his style is a net positive due to its polarizing nature. Supporters of the content view and share it on social media, while those opposed to it leave negative messages, but their views still drive engagement on his videos.
“I think a lot of people hate me passionately, deep down inside, and they want to see me fail and they think I’m cocky and egotistical, and most of those people are liberal Democrats,” Beck said.
Beck also has his own personal website, where he posts blog-esque lessons on various topics which matter to quarterbacks. Some of the posts have sensible quarterback advice such as, “It's all about you getting to throw passes that are 5-20 yards downfield consistently.”
However, these same posts have incoherent ramblings such as, “Make sure your mom has candy in the house. You should eat candy because it normalizes you, and it makes you personable to have candy and to know candy.” The website is uncensored, pure, raw Harrison Beck at his core.
“I think people love authenticity, and I think people kind of live vicariously through that,” Beck said.
His next big endeavor in the quarterbacking world is to host a quarterback camp in March. Beck said he already has around 300 signups from local kids, with the potential for more to sign up in the next month.
As for the lessons imparted at the camp, Beck said he plans to do things his way. Focusing on the mental aspects of quarterbacking will be a focus, along with an emphasis on bench press and squatting, as Beck said, “I’m getting so tired of this crossfit garbage.”
And of course, as one may expect with Beck, there is a political undercourse to the lessons, as well.
“And also, just don’t be a liberal. Don’t be a Democrat because there’s no future in it,” he said. “They’re the low self-esteem party.”
Once one of the most-hyped prospects in all of college football, Beck never quite translated his immense natural skill into an on-field product. He jumped around from Nebraska to NC State to North Alabama, and then from arena football to indoor football. Nonetheless, Beck never did and never will doubt his talent.
“I know a lot about offense, a lot about quarterback. I’m a supreme talent. I have the best arm that God ever created to put on this earth to throw a football,” Beck said.