Jeff Kolpack, Published October 12 2012
Bison find diamond in the rough with linebacker Beck
There aren’t many middle-of-nowheres in this day and age, but rural Calio, N.D., would probably qualify.
“They have their own road, so I had a little trouble,” Vigen said.
Beck’s hometown is listed as Munich, N.D., but that’s not really accurate. It is Calio, which in the last census had a population of 22. It does have the Calio Bar, and if you look out the window of the place, you can see the Beck farm in the distance about a mile away.
The town lists its most famous native as Eldon Bernard Schuster, an Oxford-educated clergyman who reached the status of bishop in Great Falls, Mont. That’s not quite accurate either, because the leader in that department is Beck after he was named the Most Valuable Player in last year’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game.
How Beck went from an area where for several years there was no high school football to the FCS title stage in Frisco, Texas, is a fascinating story in itself. He’s from a family that is rich in athletic tradition – in basketball and baseball.
Beck has uncles and cousins who won boys and girls North Dakota Class B state basketball championships and played college basketball and baseball. It would take a master’s thesis to sort it all out, but know this: The names Beck and Wirth are to athletics what farming is to the economy in that part of the state.
Travis’ father Gary and mother, Lynette Wirth, both played basketball and ran track in high school. His brother, Riley, plays baseball at North Dakota.
“We’re pretty lucky parents,” Lynette said.
In one sense, Travis is lucky to be playing football. It wasn’t a priority in Munich, where Travis went to high school.
The school allied with Border Central and Starkweather in a cooperative for a while in the 1980s. When that split, Border Central went to Langdon and Starkweather went with Cando, leaving Munich with nothing.
“No one fought it because there were no players,” said Justin Fletschock, a Munich graduate who played baseball with NDSU and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
Munich probably could have allied with Langdon, but the two schools were fierce rivals. Those feelings finally caved later in the decade and Munich kids, what few there were, were allowed to play football at Langdon. For Travis, that would mean driving about 30 miles one way to practice.
Travis already knew a bunch of Langdon kids from playing with them in youth hockey – the only Beck/Wirth grandchild to take up that sport. Those friends, Travis said, convinced him to try football in junior high.
“It’s just a basketball and baseball area when I grew up,” Fletschock said. “No one was desperate to get football, but looking back and thinking about it, there were a lot of kids who would have excelled at it.”
Several years later, it was Travis Beck who broke the mold.
And it happened almost by accident.
When former Bison player Andy DelaBarre got the head football coaching job at Langdon, he brought some kids to the NDSU football camp the summer before Beck’s senior year. At that point, Travis had no intention of being recruited, despite what DelaBarre told him.
“I just laughed and said, ‘Nah, that’s not happening,’ ” Beck said.
He put the wrong hand down when he was timed in the 40-yard dash, something that still makes Bison head coach Craig Bohl chuckle to this day.
“I was embarrassed,” Beck said. “I watched the (NFL) combine since I was 10 years old, saw them do it all the time, but I never really got into the 40 stance myself.”
But Beck played well enough in the camp that Bohl, a pilot, flew to Langdon to watch a game that fall. Vigen went back to watch him play basketball and saw “a freakish athlete who was bouncing all over the place.”
Beck still wasn’t convinced, however, that he was at the level of a Division I FCS program.
“In some ways, it was a matter of convincing Travis he could play at this level,” Vigen said.
Beck said he figured it would take at least two or three years before he would see the field. He was named a starter halfway through his freshman year last season.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “It’s happening pretty fast.”
Meanwhile, the Becks spend the week at the 8,000-acre farm, which Gary operates with his brother and father. It’s a hunter’s paradise. Lynette learned to drive trucks and tractors so her sons would have more time to play sports.
“That’s what they enjoyed, so we let them do it,” she said. “Like Gary said, he never got to (play football) when he was a kid, so he’s happy his sons could.”
As the saying goes around Calio, it’s been one Beck of a run but Wirth every moment.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia