Doug Robinson: Former Utah speedster Cal Beck finds new identity outside of football
His last severe migraine attack occurred in 2006. He was bedridden for six days and lost 20 pounds. But this time a doctor made a significant discovery — his right eye didn't dilate at the same rate as the left eye, which contributed to migraines. Computer screens, fluorescent lighting, and sunshine could bring on the attacks — and of course in football he had been exposed to the sun constantly. He began to wear sunglasses to limit light exposure, but it wasn't just light that caused the headaches. He eventually learned that the migraines are brought on by a perfect storm of events. He avoids certain foods, sleeps on a customized pillow, gets his neck "aligned," keeps himself hydrated, practices good posture and so forth.
"I don't plan my life around migraines anymore," he says. "I get about one a month, and it's usually manageable. My family knows that if they come downstairs and I'm lying down in a certain position, that I'm dealing with a headache and to leave me alone for a while. At school, I discovered there are others who have this problem. We've got each others' backs. If we need 10 minutes, we cover for each other."
He credits his wife, Deidre — whom he married in 2006 — for helping him to find relief and, ultimately, happiness. "She was the catalyst," he says "Without her … well, she didn't quit with the headaches, and that was my strength for some time, because my energy for fighting migraines was well overspent." They have two sons — Calbert V, who goes by "Flash," and Flynn, aka "FX."
Says Whittingham, "I'm proud of him. It's good to see his success. He was always a very nice, respectful young man."
Now 36, he is a nice, charismatic, articulate middle-aged man who attacks his job with the same enthusiasm he brought to football. He dresses like Abe Lincoln on President's Day; he cuts his hair and dresses like Martin Luther King on the civil rights leader's birthday, giving excerpts of his speeches to the kids; he dresses like an Indian chief on Thanksgiving and Elvis on the singer's birthday and Cat in the Hat in honor of Dr. Seuss. He also averages about three touchdown passes during recess in pickup games with the kids. As if that weren't enough time spent with children, he coaches the Murray Youth Track Club.
"It was difficult for me to move on," he says, looking back. "Now I've got my beautiful wife and sons. I love my family, love my job, I'm happy. Even though I was in the deepest, darkest times for 10 years and I would ask why me, I understand it was all worth it because I found a way to make it work. Things are not always going to turn out the way you want, but living with no regrets is better. If I had to sacrifice football to get the family and relationships I have now, so be it. I wouldn't change anything. Consider football cut."
One postscript: Following an interview with Beck, I received a text from him that read, "Thank you for the opportunity and follow up. Talking about it did me a lot of good."
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