CHARLOTTE -- Four years ago, Larry Beavers needed to be cajoled into playing wide receiver.
Just three practices into the year at Wesley College, the former high-school quarterback was pulled aside with a proposition. Would he be willing to move from the only offensive position he'd ever known?
For a moment, he vacillated. Football was his passion; he had turned down track scholarships at other schools to play the sport at Wesley, which as a Division III institution does not offer athletic scholarships.
"When they moved me, I said, 'Dang, I played quarterback all my life, and now they've got me moving to wide receiver.' I wanted to quit football," Beavers said. "The coaches talked me into it, and said it would be a great fit for me."
As is often the case, the coaches were right. His first full season as a wide receiver saw him snag 48 passes for 1,076 yards, good for a 22.4-yards-per-catch average. A three-touchdown-reception game against Averett -- with two of the scores coming from beyond 40 yards -- sealed the deal.
Although he didn't know it at the time, Beavers was on his way to the NFL, thanks to the change to receiver.
"I've been in love with it ever since," he said.
BEAVERS, THE RETURNER
No such coaxing was required to convince Beavers to handle kickoff and punt returns, work that fit snugly with his offensive duties. But it was his work on special teams that drew NFL attention, particularly in a senior season last fall that saw him score on eight of his 30 total returns -- an incredible 26.7 percent of his runbacks.
Beavers' gaudy averages last year -- 39.5 per kickoff return; 29.2 per punt return -- ensured that someone, somewhere would notice and bring him into an NFL camp. Scouts began making the 2,300-student college in Dover, Del. a regular stop on their rounds. But Beavers noticed that Panthers representatives were on hand more often than those of other teams.
"They showed me the most interest," Beavers said.
"They told me that I had a chance, and that I should keep my eyes open -- that if I wasn't (in Carolina), I was going to be somewhere else in the league."
"They told me they wanted me, and I (darn) sure wanted to be here -- and it came true."
It would seem impossible to expect Beavers to generate those kinds of gaudy numbers as a professional; even Chicago's All-Pro Devin Hester scored on 8.7 percent of his returns during his breakthrough rookie season in 2006, a season that is the recent standard-bearer for NFL returners.
But he feels that his skills on returns will bridge the massive gap between Division III and the NFL.
"The numbers don't lie at all," he said with confidence.