Monson: Utah tackle Zane Beadles builds robots, but does his own rockin' and sockin' on the field
It's been a lousy week for Zane Beadles, one of the worst he can remember over the back half of his college career. Losing for the first time in 22 months messed over the Ute left tackle, leaving him ticked and troubled at what caused the loss and looking forward to cleaning out any lingering debris.
"It's hard to get past," he says. "I've been in a grumpy mood all week."
But he's had more difficult weeks.
Like all 14 weeks last season, when he was in the thick of turning in an all-conference contribution to what ended up being an undefeated Utah team, all while facing the teeth of his ridiculously arduous mechanical engineering curriculum. Beadles hit the field for his run-and pass blocking duties, hit the weight room to get stronger, hit the meeting room and film room for game-planning sessions, hit the library to study, and hit the lab, where he built a robot for his Mechatronics 3200 class.
"There were a lot of sleepless nights," he says.
Beadles and his team of three other students named the robot the Shia Destroyer, named after Shia LaBeouf, one of the actors in the most recent Indiana Jones movie, because the mechanical bit of wizardry was intended to haul artifacts through a warehouse.
In other spare moments, Beadles buried himself in courses such as Fluid Mechanics 3700 and Thermodynamics 3600. Currently, he's enrolled in Sustainable Energy 5800, an engineering class that runs students through something called "Hubbert's Pimple," a theory that deals with the relationship between a maximum limit to the production of the world's fossil fuels and the use of those fuels.
Turns out that Beadles, a Ute captain, is a 6-foot-4, 306-pound egghead. A brainiac who will take you, and a whole lot of defensive ends, out. He can fill a stadium and build it, too.
"I get jabs from the guys here and there," he says. "But it's something I take pride in. I want to leave here with a degree. Something I can use in the future to make a living. It's been hard, but it's made me a better person."
Beadles says combining the pursuit of such a challenging academic track and playing top-level football has required just about everything he can give in all three phases: physical, mental, emotional. He is a road-grading, book-learning, robot-building testament to teamwork because his path has taken some adjusting on the part of coaches and professors, and himself.
"It's a huge challenge," he says. "But it can be done. You just can't let it overwhelm you."
After his senior season, Beadles -- who went to Hillcrest High School, where he had a 3.92 grade point average, and who graduates from Utah in December -- wants to make a run at the NFL. When he's done there, one of his potential goals is to switch from offense to defense -- getting a masters degree in aerospace engineering and moving on to develop sophisticated defense weapons systems.
Before that, though, there is the business of working through one more season on the field, his fourth as a starter on the offensive line. As a freshman, he played guard, but since then, he's anchored the left tackle spot, the most critical position up front. It's notable that Beadles, after a redshirt season his first year at Utah, came to the conclusion that he would never make any kind of impact for the Utes.
"I needed to get stronger," he says. "I thought, 'There's no way I'm ever going to play here.' "
Ironically enough, one of Beadles' biggest hardships was learning a new offense. He could pretty much nail the study of air and water pressures, the concepts of hydraulics and pneumatics, the ancient teachings of Archimedes, but the inner workings of the modern spread, the fundamentals of Andy Ludwig?
"That was overwhelming," he says.
He found his way, all of which culminated in the triumph of the Sugar Bowl, one of two rewards that punctuated the most difficult months of his college experience. That, and the fact that the Shia Destroyer actually functioned.
This season, coming off the loss at Oregon, Beadles says he's fully focused on Louisville, on moving on and forging a satisfactory result for this year's iteration of the Utes.
"It's hard to get away from the '08 identity," he says. "But we can use [the loss] as a positive and learn from it. Winning is hard. We've got to put everything into it."
Beadles already has.