It’s time for D.J. Beavers to stop playing and start living.
That fact was confirmed minutes after the Huskies’ Spring Preview, when a University of Washington spokesperson announced the 6-foot-1, 219-pound senior linebacker had medically retired from football. Beavers had been noticeably absent from UW’s 15 April practices, as he continued to rehab a torn Achilles suffered early in the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State on New Year’s Day.
In 22 career games, the Culver City, Calif., product compiled 69 tackles, two forced fumbles, two tackles for loss and an interception.
When he played, he produced. But Beavers’ body had other ideas.
“Such a tough football player,” Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake lamented after the Spring Preview. “He was just snake-bitten. It seemed like every spring football, every training camp, every three games he was getting injured. Just unfortunate for the guy.
“This is how it happens sometimes. This is a physical, fierce game that we play, and sometimes it doesn’t roll right for certain guys.”
And yet, D.J. Beavers keeps right on rolling. The former Crespi Carmelite High School standout just wrapped up an internship with Pacific Office Automation — an office technology company — he told The Times in a phone interview on Wednesday. He’ll complete one more class at UW this fall before graduating with a degree in communications and professional sales.
Meanwhile, he’s continuing to rehab the Achilles injury after having surgery last winter. And despite the recurring injuries, it wasn’t an easy decision to walk away.
“Recovering from injury, it’s just a process. It takes a long time,” said Beavers, who played in just five games in both 2017 and 2018 while dealing with nagging Achilles issues. “It’s frustrating when it keeps happening, but you’ve just got to keep a positive mind and keep going forward and pushing.
“Football ends for everyone at some point. I wouldn’t say (losing football) really affected me that much, because I know I gave it my all — gave everything for it. My health is more important than playing football, you know?”
Beavers said that while the decision to retire was a collaborative process with UW’s doctors, “ultimately I had the final say.”
There are football players who define their lives by success or failure between the end zones. Beavers could never afford to think that way.
“I’ve always been an education-first, football-second sort of guy,” he said. “I’ve always focused my life like that, in case a day like this came. It did, and I’m ready for what comes next.”
So, what comes next? Beavers will remain in Seattle for the next several weeks, before spending the remainder of his summer back home in California. He’s considering working for the football program this fall, as a way to remain intertwined with his Husky family.
As for the suddenly lacking inside linebackers room, the Huskies will be tasked with replacing the likes of Ben Burr-Kirven, Tevis Bartlett and Beavers — who accounted for a combined 265 tackles last fall — in 2019. The only player with significant Pac-12 experience is senior Brandon Wellington, who has produced 50 tackles in 35 career games.
But outside of Wellington, a cavalcade of capable linebackers — senior Kyler Manu, redshirt freshmen Jackson Sirmon, M.J. Tafisi and Edefuan Ulofoshio and true freshmen Josh Calvert, Daniel Heimuli and Alphonzo Tuputala — will all compete for the remaining reps.
Had Beavers returned, he would have almost certainly slotted in as an established starter. But now?
“I have tons of confidence in my guys,” he said. “The inside linebackers, we strived to be the best we could be. I know that they’ll hold it down for next season and many seasons to come.”
As for Beavers, he said he’s “totally satisfied” with his highly successful — albeit brief — career inside Husky Stadium.
“I came in, gave it my all, gave it the best I could. I don’t think anyone should regret anything if they did that,” Beavers said. “I just realized that it’s about time to move on. I love playing football, but my life comes first.”