Deep-voiced and dreadlocked, quick to break into a modest grin when amused or surprised, Bryce Beekman exuded a quietude that belied his aggressive play on the field. Two of his teammates invoked the term “purest soul” in Twitter posts Wednesday.
Shockingly, Washington State football players are mourning a friend and comrade for the second time in 27 months.
A senior-to-be safety from Baton Rouge, La., who had emerged as one of the Cougars’ better defenders last season, Beekman was found dead in his Pullman apartment Tuesday by a police officer responding to a report of “breathing problems.” There was no suspicion of foul play or suicide. Beekman was 22.
Annie Pillers, Whitman County coroner, released a statement Wednesday saying the cause of death won’t be known for two to three months.
“One of the purest souls I have ever met,” WSU running back Max Borghi tweeted, an observation echoed by former Cougar receiver Easop Winston Jr.
Numerous members of the Cougar roster still are mourning the loss of quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who shook the entire college football world when he died by suicide in his Pullman apartment on Jan. 16, 2018.
“Not 1, but 2 in my college career,” WSU senior offensive lineman Liam Ryan tweeted Wednesday. “I just pray for his family because this brought back a lot of emotions. Man.... sometimes I just ask GOD why sometimes??? Watch over us brothas and see you both in heaven! Rest in love 26 and 3.”
Those were the uniform numbers of Beekman and Hilinski, respectively.
A rangy 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, Beekman transferred to Washington State as a junior in 2019 and started all 13 games for a 6-7 team, providing pugnacity and finesse to a hard-pressed defense whose coordinator resigned after four games. He ranked fifth on the team with 60 tackles and also tallied an interception, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.
He wore No. 26 in honor of Sean Taylor, a Washington Redskins safety who’d worn that number for the University of Miami, and who was shot to death by intruders at his Miami-area home in 2007.
Beekman likely would have been a primary leader for the 2020 Cougars, whose spring drills, originally scheduled to start Friday, have been indefinitely postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. With the school transitioning to online classes, most WSU players remained at their permanent residences when spring break ended Monday.
“My relationship with Bryce was still in its early stages, but I knew him to be a wonderful young man,” first-year WSU coach Nick Rolovich said in a statement released by the school. “He was always positive and well-respected amongst his teammates. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”
Beekman had transferred to WSU from Arizona Western College, where he received honorable mention on the junior-college All-America team as a freshman and was ranked the No. 4 JC safety prospect the next year. He became one of four JC defensive backs to join a Cougar team that had taken major hits at that position by graduation and departures.
“He was a great kid,” said former WSU coach Mike Leach, who left the Cougars for Mississippi State in January. “He was always happy and friendly with everyone. It’s very tragic, and he and his family are in my prayers.”
Sloe-eyed, mellow and courteous, he adjusted quickly to Pullman despite few ties to the West. Born in Milwaukee, he spent his first three years of high school in Wisconsin before transferring to Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge.
His younger brother, Reece, starred in basketball at Scotlandville and has signed to play at Virginia for former WSU coach Tony Bennett.
“We are in shock with the news of Bryce’s passing,” WSU athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement. “Bryce was a tremendous young man, great teammate and will be missed by all. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to the Beekman family and his many friends.”
Dale Grummert may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2290.