Beelen and Clay make strides as two-sport athletes

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

Multi-sport athletes are a rare breed. Only two of the 395 athletes at SIU are on multiple active rosters.

Senior TJ Beelen is a nose tackle and junior Adam Clay is an offensive tackle in football. Both are also throwers in track and field, and have participated in both sports every year they’ve been at the university.

Throws coach JC Lambert said being a two-sport athlete can be beneficial, but thinks focusing on one sport allows an athlete to progress faster. 


“It definitely helps [them] become stronger since [they’re] constantly working out and staying in shape,” he said. “I would like to have them both all to myself with track, but both have a good scholarship with football.”

Former football coach Dale Lennon said it is beneficial to be in multiple sports because it allows them to progress.

“I love that they’re able to compete and help both programs wherever they’re needed,” he said. “Obviously it’s tough to balance both athletics and academics, but they do a nice job of stepping up and doing well.”

Beelen said a former coach of his suggested he become a two-sport athlete in college.

“My track coach in high school thought it would be a good idea if I continued to do both in college,” he said. “I like doing track, but my first love is football.”

Beelen was an All-State thrower and ESPN’s 52nd best football player in Michigan during his senior year in 2011. He was’s 143rd best defensive lineman in the nation.

He said he is two weeks ahead of schedule in rehab after a season-ending knee injury in the Oct. 3 football game against Western Illinois required surgery. Beelen also said he is still about three weeks from being fully healthy and wasn’t available for the first track meet of the season on Dec. 5. He said he wants to return for the Jan. 15 Kentucky Invitational.


Beelen recorded 10 tackles in four games before the injury and has a medical redshirt remaining, which Lennon said he will likely use. 

Clay, who gained interest in throwing again after becoming friends with Beelen, said he enjoys being on the track team even though he was originally recruited for football.

In high school, Clay was a state finalist in shot put and holds Livonia Franklin High’s shot put record of 16.9 meters. He was also an All-State selection in football his senior season.

Clay’s only football game this season was against Missouri State.

Beelen has a personal record of 55.43 meters for discus and 15.50 meters in shot put. He finished second in discus and ninth overall for shot put in the 2015 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships to qualify for the regional tournament, where he finished 43rd overall in discus.

Clay has a personal record of 14.84 meters in shot put at the MVC championships but did not qualify for the regional tournament.

Lambert said athletes aren’t able to train with throwers during football season. However, he said football training helps them both become lighter on their feet, which helps their discus throw.

Clay, who was a scholar-athlete in high school, said being a multi-sport athlete is challenging, but worth it.

“The academics is the main reason why we’re here. We’re working to get a degree,” he said. “I have to make time for my school work in the limited time I have, and I keep in contact with my coaches and academic advisers and do whatever I can to get the work done.”

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 536-3304