Columbus quarterback Tucker Beirne has never had a hard time deciding what he’s thankful for in life.
This Thanksgiving, it’s even easier because it’s almost as if he won the lottery twice. First, he was adopted by multimillionaires. And this year he survived a scary heart episode in the hospital.
Beirne spent a week at Miami Children’s Hospital in a bout with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) only a couple of weeks before the start of his senior season. At one point, doctors were afraid he might need a heart transplant.
But four months later Beirne is healthy and focused heading into Friday’s regional final showdown with Killian (12-0) at Southridge Field. He has become Columbus’ all-time leading passer this season, eclipsing greats such as Mike Shula and Brian Griese, and now he stands only two wins shy of leading the Explorers (11-1) to the state finals for the first time since 1982.
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Thankful? He couldn’t be more. And neither could his father.
“Tucker is a terrific kid,” said David Beirne, a venture capitalist who moved his family to South Florida three years ago to start Fantex, a trading platform and brokerage company that allows investors to trade shares linked to the value and performance of professional athletes.
“[My wife] Terry and I talk about it all the time — life would be very boring without Tuck.”
The Beirnes are far from boring. David met Terry in the seventh grade, got married at 22 “with only $1,500 between us” and then “got very, very lucky in business.” According to reports, David hooked up with Benchmark Capital, which pulled in more than $2billion working with companies such as eBay, Yelp, Open Table and Zillow.
Starting a family biologically was the only thing that gave the Beirnes trouble. Terry nearly died giving birth to her only biological child, Matt, who graduated from Duke and now works with his father at Fantex. After that, the Beirnes decided to adopt. Tim, an actor in Dallas, was the first child they adopted. Tucker was the last.
Raised in Aspen, Colorado, Tucker met Columbus coach Chris Merritt when he served as an assistant on the youth USA football team four years ago. As a starter at his high school in Colorado as a freshman, Tucker threw for 2,013 yards and 22 touchdowns his first year of varsity ball.
When he found out the family was moving to South Florida, he looked up Merritt, transferred to Columbus and won the starting job after a fierce competition with fellow sophomore Andres Fernandez. Although Beirne (6-2, 200) has heard people say he has won starting quarterback jobs since the second grade only because of his father’s deep pockets, Merritt insists Tucker has earned every start of his career at Columbus with his play.
“We’ve had a lot of wealthy families come through Columbus,” Merritt said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to play our best 11.”
Merritt said the Beirnes have been very giving to Columbus. They helped sponsor the team’s trip to Kentucky in October, and Tucker’s mother serves on the school’s quarterback club. She helps make team meals before games and always has “five to 10 kids over at the house with Tucker” on the weekends.
“His first year, with the speed and then the pass rush, it was like someone hit fast forward on the DVD player for him,” Merritt said of Tucker. “But things have slowed down for him quite a bit. He hasn’t led (Miami-)Dade County in passing, but I think he’s been top five every year. He doesn’t throw the interceptions like he used to. And that’s going to be big Friday night. We can’t give Killian the ball.”
After throwing 21 interceptions combined as a sophomore and junior, Tucker has completed 56 percent of his passes this season for 1,685 yards, 19 touchdowns and only six picks.
Committed to Bryant University, a Football Championship Subdivision program, Merritt said Beirne was asked if he would like to walk on at the University of Miami. Tucker said he’s mulling it over.
Right now, though, he’s focused on beating Killian.
“I think it’s about time Columbus does it,” Tucker said. “It’s time Coach Merritt gets what is his.”