Football Media Day on August 7, 2021. Erin Hillery/Missouri State University

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Before Ryan Beard leads the Missouri State football team onto the field Friday night at Kansas University’s Memorial Stadium, he will take a moment for reflection and perspective prior.

The 34-year-old Beard, promoted to replace Bobby Petrino as Bears’ head coach last December, will encourage his coaching staff and players to do the same. It’s OK to take a deep breath and savor the scene before three hours of aggression kicks off in Kansas.

“I actually do that before every game,” Beard said. “As you see in life, in COVID and everything else in life people are dealing with these days, time is promised to no one. I feel like every single day is a gift and you have to take a second to enjoy it. 

“Those players (and) our staff spend a lot of time away from people they care about. You spend a lot of time at work. You have to continue to be able to find your joy. The good Lord has put us in position to have some fun with this career and make a difference. That’s what we’re gonna try and do.”

More than X’s, O’s and schemes

Beard is one of the youngest head coaches in college football and the youngest in Missouri State football history as the new era begins with a big challenge. Kansas was one of the biggest turnaround programs in major college football a year ago, and this season bigger things are expected.

Not that it matters to Beard. The former defensive coordinator has looked forward to this moment since his hiring. During that time, Beard has done a lot more than game-plan and oversee his team on the practice field. 

He’s also been a salesman across Springfield, meeting and greeting fans to try and pump up enthusiasm and maintain momentum that got a spark with two Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances in three seasons under Petrino. Missouri State ended a three-decade postseason drought and now, under Beard’s watch, it’s his charge to take the next step.

“The time is here and the time is now to see what you’ve done in regards to recruiting and preparation for the season,” Beard said. “There’s no better time to start it off at Kansas vs. the new and improved Jayhawks.”

Personality on camera

A man is interviewed by reporters
Ryan Beard meets with the media on Monday following his first news conference as Missouri State’s head new football coach. (Photo: Jesse Scheve, Missouri State University)

Beard said he’s enjoyed the public relations aspect of being a head coach since his promotion, including an easy back-and-forth with the local media. Few Missouri State head coaches over the last three decades have demonstrated such people skills and some, with many more years in the profession, have downright failed in that part of the job.

But Beard was quick to note that there’s another side of him that kicks in once he steps on the football field. He’s passionate, intense and serious about his duties and doesn’t apologize for any of it.

During a news conference this week to preview the Kansas game, Beard pointed to three team captains in the back of the room and said they would testify that he cranks it up several notches when necessary.

“What you see is a little bit different than what those guys see in regards to my coaching mannerisms,” Beard said. “I’m an in-your-face, pretty direct person. I feel you can have both and that helps your program. It turns on when you step in between the white lines and I think it’s been great.

“I enjoy talking to you guys, but my main priority here is to get the team ready to win football games. However my attitude has to change to do that, we’ve done that.”

Coach Ryan Beard, Dude

The players agree, both one who played for him on defense last season and a newcomer by way of transfer. 

“He hasn’t changed a bit,” returning safety P.J. Hall said. “He’s a coach that you want to go to war with.”

Defensive lineman Darion Smith, who transferred after playing three years at Charlotte, said Beard has made a quick impression on him.

“Man, off the field he’s one of the people you want to hang out with and want to be with,” Smith said. “He’s gonna give you all the wisdom you need to hear and tell you the hard things you need to hear. On the field, it’s a complete 180. He’s the head coach that you want to have to go into battle with. 

“He’s gonna tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not. He’s gonna get in your face and make you what you did wrong and what you can do to improve. The only word that comes to mind is, he’s a ‘dude.’ He’s a ‘dude’ as a head coach.”

As the head dude, Beard no longer will be able to focus entirely on his defensive unit, or specific defensive position group. The responsibilities as the boss multiply his attention many times over. It could be a learning curve when it comes to clock management, using timeouts and challenging plays, to name only a few things.

“It is certainly a different perspective because there will not be times I go and do every single correction with the defense,” Beard said. “My eyes will be on the field the whole time. We’ll be talking offense, defense, special teams and I’m excited for the challenge. 

“Great head coaches are great game managers. That opportunity will be a lot of fun.”

Friday night under the lights

Missouri State opens its football season Friday night at Kansas as Ryan Beard debuts as the youngest head coach in program history. (Photo by Jesse Scheve/Missouri State University Athletics)

Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday and, while Kansas might have more depth and certainly more monetary resources than Missouri State, Beard doesn’t believe his players will be bothered. Just a year ago, the Bears had a late third-quarter lead at Arkansas before fading.

“The nice thing about our roster, you’ve got transfers and junior college and guys in different roles and they’ve been to the big show,” Beard said, noting 20 players on his roster have FBS playing experience, including five receivers and 10 newcomers. 

“We’re not gonna walk out there timid, looking at the lights. We’ve been there and done that. This is football, at the end of the day.”

Missouri State 2023 football schedule

Friday – at Kansas, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9 – at Tennessee-Martin, 6 p.m.

Sept. 23 – Utah Tech, 2 p.m.

Sept. 30 – at Southern Illinois, 4 p.m.

Oct. 7 – North Dakota State, 2 p.m.

Oct. 14 – at Western Illinois, 3 p.m.

Oct. 21 – Murray State, 2 p.m.

Oct. 28 – at Youngstown State, 1 p.m.

Nov. 4 – Illinois State, 2 p.m.

Nov. 11 – Northern Iowa, 2 p.m.

Nov. 18 – at South Dakota State, 2 p.m.

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton