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March 3, 2013

One step at a time



Four years ago, Darnell Green-Beckham participated in his first team camp at Missouri. His testing numbers were nearly identical to his big brother, Dorial Green-Beckham, at the same stage.

Three years ago, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel got his first real look at Darnell as a high-school athlete. According to his father, John Beckham, the freshman helped lead the Hornets to a come-from-behind victory, scoring about 15 points in a quarter-and-a-half span while his brother sat on the bench with foul trouble. During that same year, Arkansas became Darnell's first scholarship offer.

Two years ago, Darnell Green-Beckham was diagnosed with leukemia, derailing a burgeoning athletic career. While making frequent trips to Memphis for treatment, the youngest Green-Beckham missed nearly a semester of school. He didn't return to the football field until the 2012 season.

One year ago, Darnell watched Dorial sign with Missouri, ending the recruitment of the nation's top-ranked player. Shortly before Dorial's announcement, Missouri offered Darnell, joining Oklahoma and the Razorbacks in the hunt for the 2014 recruit.

It was at that time that Darnell was ready to commit to Missouri. However, that didn't officially occur until Saturday during the Tigers' junior day.

"I had a private talk with Coach Pinkel, and he told me that the offer was still there," Green-Beckham said. "Once he said that, I told him I wanted to commit."

"He (Pinkel) reiterated that the offer was still there and it was based on his ability and potential," John Beckham said. "It wasn't based on his brother."

Darnell's commitment to Missouri is an interesting situation, and both father and son admit that. Before he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Feb. 2011, Green-Beckham appeared set for a recruitment that may have rivaled his brothers.

But two years later, Green-Beckham said he's "relieved" to get the decision out of the way. Although the question of his future school has been answered, there's still plenty of other questions remaining.

Green-Beckham's final treatment is scheduled for Sep. 11, 2013. Because of chemotherapy, he's had trouble putting on weight, and currently measures in at 6-foot-5 and around 170-pounds, according to his father. After that final treatment, the family will see how quickly Darnell begins to regain his form physically. Add in the semester he missed during treatment, and there's a possibility that Green-Beckham will enroll at Missouri in January 2015.

"That would be my gut feeling right now," John Beckham said. "But it's all up in the air."

There's no questioning Darnell's desire, however. He played football this past fall while still undergoing chemotherapy. He would receive treatment once a week and still go to practice.

"He worked so hard, we couldn't keep him off the field," Beckham, who is Hillcrest's football coach, said. "Each day he kept getting better."

Now, only Missouri's offer remained for Darnell, and his father admitted that it may look like Dorial's decision had an impact. But, all along Missouri's staff told the family that Darnell would be a BCS-level athlete after he recovered from his illness.

"After he puts on weight, he'll be 6-5, 205, 210 pounds," Beckham said. "That's pretty good for a receiver.

"I think, two years from now, people are going to be very happy."

In the meantime, Darnell said he's "staying humble" as he begins to grow into the athlete coaching staffs saw when he was a freshman. Two years from now, Pinkel may not have to watch a glimpse of Darnell making plays on the basketball court. If all goes according to plan, Pinkel will watch Darnell making plays on Faurot Field.

The last "first step" begins on Sep. 11. From there, Darnell Green-Beckham begins his return to form in earnest.

"We're just so happy that Missouri is going to give him a chance," John Beckham said.

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