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John Blanchette: Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs designs angelic memorial to Bryce Beekman

UPDATED: Fri., April 10, 2020

Often the most difficult part of helping is deciding what part of ourselves to give.

This was not necessarily on Dallas Hobbs’ mind when he sat down at his iPad with his stylus and his fonts in the hours after learning on March 24 that Bryce Beekman, his friend and Washington State football teammate, had died.

“I’m always designing,” he said. “It’s my little place to go away.”

This time he took the memory of someone with him.

And as those Beekman befriended and touched wrestled with their loss, Hobbs set out to create his own tribute. A couple of days later he posted his work – a likeness of Beekman in uniform with wings and a halo that Hobbs calls “Our Angel Above” – to his social media accounts.

Where it became something of a cause.

Now the design and a handful of others have been transferred to stickers, printed and cut on Hobbs’ own equipment, and are being sold with the proceeds going to Beekman’s family to offset their considerable transportation and funeral expenses.

That is to say, they were being sold. And they will be sold.

At the moment, however, Hobbs has had to suspend orders while he catches up, demand having far outstripped his imagination and his work force – which to this point has been him.

“I guess I’m not surprised – Cougar Nation always does a good job,” he said. “But I didn’t fully expect this.”

Unspeakable tragedy and disorienting upheaval have become regular visitors to Washington State’s football program. The Cougars are barely two years removed from the suicide of quarterback Tyler Hilinski. Beekman’s death – the cause of which is still months from being determined – was every bit as devastating, and aggravated that old scar tissue, as well.

Meanwhile, the school is a month into holding classes online after students, including the football team, retreated to their homes amid measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Left to keep 100-odd teammates connected – and comforted – is a new coach, Nick Rolovich, who hadn’t held so much as one practice yet.

“We’re staying in touch every day,” reported Hobbs, a junior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who became the starter at nose tackle midway through the 2019 season. “I’m in like 10 different group chats with people. Coaches are helping out a lot. They’re reaching out every day, asking if anybody needs anything.”

Part of what Hobbs needed was to know that he could help.

When he posted the angelic design of Beekman to his modest number of Twitter followers, Hobbs was pleased to discover it had “hit about 100,000 people and had about 1,000 retweets,” he said.

“That’s kind of how I started thinking, ‘This reached a lot of people – what else could I do with it?’ ”

He didn’t have to think long. Hobbs carries a 3.81 GPA in two majors at WSU – digital technology and culture, and fine arts with a focus in digital media – and has been engrossed in sticker art for a few months. After drawing the original design, he pulled together a few others, ran his impromptu plan past Wazzu’s compliance office and offered his wares online.

That was last Saturday. He had to call a halt to the orders on Wednesday after 225 responses requested some 700 stickers. He even enlisted the help of his mother, Angela, back in Iowa with the bookkeeping.

“And I’ve had to outsource (printing work) to another company,” Hobbs said, “but the custom ones, with a number and last name, I’ll do myself.”

He hopes to resume taking orders next week – check @Dhobbs92 on Twitter. As for what he’s collected so far, he’s keeping that secret so as to surprise Beekman’s family – though he began all this when “I didn’t really have a relationship (with them) at all.

“I finally reached out to his mom, and she messaged me back saying it was a good thing to do and she was proud I was doing something. A lot of his friends and family members have reached out asking how they can be a part of it. It’s reached a lot of people.”

Not the least those being his new coach.

“Take football out of it,” Rolovich said on a live chat on spokesman.com this week, “Dallas Hobbs – I’m not surprised at anything he accomplishes. This is an incredible human. I’m glad he’s on our football team, but I’m also glad he’s in this world. This guy’s making a difference in a positive way and being creative, but his heart is pure and it’s a genuine thing he wants to do.”

Because his memories of Bryce Beekman are genuine.

“I’d always be designing something in the locker room, in between practice and lifting,” Hobbs recalled, “and he’d pop his head over my shoulder and be like, ‘Hey, Hobbs, what you working on there? That thing looks pretty nice.’ And he’d always ask, ‘When am I going to get one of those?’ ”

In football, everybody has an assignment. This route, this block, this gap to fill. In Bryce Beekman’s case, this coverage.

Dallas Hobbs has made this his assignment.

“I wanted to share,” Hobbs said, “who he was in the best way I could … and what he meant to me.”

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