WHEATON, ILL., JUNE 9 -- Kurt Beathard says it hasn't bothered him that fellow players at the Arena Football League training camp often ask him about his dad. After all, when your father is the general manager of the Washington Redskins, you probably get used to that sort of thing quickly.
But when the final cuts of players for the new indoor league are made later this week, Beathard would like everyone to forget about his background. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound quarterback from Towson State is fighting a slim chance of making the league, and he wants all the credit for any mistakes to be placed squarely on his shoulders.
"I hope it doesn't come down to me making the league or me going to play for Washington because of my dad," Beathard said. "I'm sure it might."
Beathard knows he may be one of several players here who will find the dream of playing professional football is over when the league trims to its final 64 players on Friday. He said it's not "life or death" if he makes it, yet he sounds somewhat angry with himself for not being in better condition.
Not since the 1985 season, when he passed for a school record 2,705 yards on a 59 percent completion rate, has Beathard played the game. Worse, he said, he's in "crummy shape" and finds playing the game isn't as natural as it was in college. He's up against 11 other quarterbacks, and the league plans to keep a minimum of eight among its four teams in Washington, Pittsburgh, Denver and Chicago.
Beathard went through what he called an "easy" tryout in Mitchellville, Md., last month, and said he thought he might hear again from the league. Meanwhile, he said, he still wasn't getting in shape, despite the encouragement of his father, Bobby. Then on the first day of camp, May 29, he was invited to join the league at Wheaton College in this western suburb of Chicago. His first day was not an impressive one, say several coaches, though he has improved somewhat.
Although he is up against several quarterbacks near his size -- only two of the quarterbacks in camp are taller than 6-1 -- he faces an uphill battle. According to Mouse Davis, the league's executive director of player personnel, Beathard is one of eight quarterbacks battling for the final four spots.
"The worst thing is, he said he hasn't had a good day yet," said Bobby Beathard. "I've never heard him down like this before."
In fact, Kurt Beathard was considering not even trying out for the league. He's still taking classes at Towson State, and was scheduled to graduate after attending a summer session that began today.
"I didn't know if I wanted to go to school or play this," he said. "In the past, all I would have wanted to do was play football. But now, it's getting close. It's about time I graduate."
Bobby Beathard said his son has also told him that his play hasn't been good enough for him to make the league. Yet, the father said, "If he was in the right shape and in the right frame of mind, he would definitely make it."
But this last week could be enough time for Kurt to show he can play in a smaller, domed version of football that the arena game will offer. Coaches say he has shown the ability that impressed Joe Haering, the league's director of player personnel, at the opening tryout in Mitchellville.
"He had a fluid release and a fairly strong arm," said Haering, who will become the coach of the Pittsburgh Gladiators this season. "He also handled himself well, and took charge in the drills. You could tell he had played in college."
Said Davis: "He does appear to be the kind of kid who makes things happen."
Certainly, several others can do the same. Among them are Sean Payton, a 6-1, 205-pound quarterback who had 10,655 yards at Eastern Illinois to become third on the list of all time collegiate passers, and Mike Calhoun, who played in the Canadian Football League with Montreal.
Beathard has also found several disadvantages of his own to deal with. First is the "run and shoot" offense that Davis created while coaching the USFL's Houston Gamblers, the offense that the league is essentially adopting. At Towson State, Beathard was a straight dropback passer.
"I think it's fun, but I'm just not used to it," Beathard said. "It's a real quick rollout -- about five or six steps -- and then you throw on the run. Everything just happens quicker with this game."
Though Beathard is not the only player who has been out of football for a while, his layoff is a question. While he tries to regain his edge, Beathard has the support of his father.
"I feel for him," Bobby Beathard said. "I just told him he has to do what he felt was right. Sometimes you have to get things out of your system, and I guess football is not out of his system yet."