Becton ready to play after paying his dues


Since leaving the University of New Mexico two years ago, where he was a sociology major and an outside linebacker, Jesse Becton:

* Worked as a doorman keeping peace at a nightclub in Albuquerque, N.M.

* Served as a district manager of circulation for the Albuquerque Journal.

* Applied for jobs with the fire and police departments in Albuquerque.

* Sought a tryout with the Las Vegas Posse, a Canadian Football League expansion team.

It wasn't until Becton came to Baltimore this summer that he revived his dormant football career with the expansion CFLs. And even then, he spent the first two weeks of the season on the practice roster.

Saturday night, Becton finally goes through the threshold. He will start at outside linebacker for Baltimore, replacing the injured Alvin Walton (hamstring) against the Shreveport Pirates.

Becton said he felt mostly relief upon getting the news this week.

"Being on the practice squad, they tell you to wait your turn," he said. "I've been waiting. Now I'm anxious to go out and play, although I don't like how it happened -- Alvin pulling his hamstring."

If Becton, 25, proves as resourceful on the field as he was in getting there, he should make an impact.

"My first year out of school, I worked out, hoping to get in an NFL camp," he said. "I had part-time jobs, waiting for somebody -- anybody -- to call.

"After my first daughter was born, I was seriously thinking about a long-term goal."

For Becton, who now has two young daughters, that goal was to be a fireman. Trained as a sociologist, he was ready to fight fires. Why?

"Just helping people," he said. "I know there's risk involved, but there's a chance I can save somebody's life . . . or even a dog's life. It's all about giving back to the community."

Becton is eager to share his own experiences with today's youth. He will talk about running with a gang, drinking, and "experimenting" with marijuana.

"But that didn't appeal to me, and sports took over my life," he said.

He was a baseball player first, then an all-state running back in Albuquerque. He played running back two years at Western New Mexico.

"I was a straight-up runner like Eric Dickerson," he said.

Dickerson, he wasn't, though. Becton turned to defense when he transferred to New Mexico. In his senior season, he had 14 1/2 sacks, 64 tackles and a 60-yard touchdown run with an interception.

It was his speed -- in the 4.5-second range for 40 yards -- that attracted Baltimore to him this summer.

Now he's got his opportunity.

"I'm already excited," he said yesterday. "I was flying around a practice like a kid. I'll be running on pure emotion the first quarter Saturday, and maybe the second. Then football should take over."

NOTES: Quarterback Tracy Ham participated in the no-huddle offense yesterday, then sat out the rest of the practice to let his sprained right ankle heal. He told coach Don Matthews he would work all of practice today. . . . Nose tackle Jearld Baylis, who aggravated an old knee injury when he was leg-whipped on Saturday against Calgary, sat out the practice with Walton. "It was an imaginary vacation day," said Baylis. "I was in the Bahamas today."

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