NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Dorial Green-Beckham's life changed on May 1, the day the Titans drafted him.
It's a moment he'll never forget, made even more special because of the arduous path he traveled to the National Football League.
Then came June 30. That's when Green-Beckham became a father for the first time. The birth of his son, Drelyn Isaiah, provided him an even bigger opportunity – the chance to give his son something he never had growing up.
"My goal is to be that father figure for him. I want to give my all to him, and give him what I didn't have as a kid,'' Green-Beckham said. "I want to set an example that he can follow, and be someone that he can be proud of. It's definitely a life changer for me."
Green-Beckham's road to Nashville included many detours. He never knew his biological father, and his mother's substance abuse problems left Dorial and his siblings bouncing from one foster home to the next in the state of Missouri. He slept on floors in both St. Louis and Springfield, and, for one long stretch, in a van. Green-Beckham had to dig deep to find reasons to believe things would one day get better.
When he was 13, he was adopted by his high school coach, John Beckham, and his wife, Tracy. That's when his life began to change for the better. The structure allowed him to stay on track even when he dealt with off-field trouble in college. The experiences should make Green-Beckham stronger as a person, a player, and a father himself, John Beckham said.
"The people that knew Dorial when he came into our lives when he was 13, they are absolutely amazed to see where he is right now. He has come a long way,'' Beckham said. "Dorial is strong. Unfortunately, he missed out on having a father figure in his life when he was young, and he doesn't want to make the same mistake that his biological father made. So now he is doing this for himself, and doing it for [his son]. He is motivated to be the best he can be. Now he is a father, and I know he is excited about that and he is committed to his son."
Green-Beckham, a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, looks like he's on the right track with the Titans. After struggling with dropped passes and his conditioning during his first few months on the job, his confidence is up and his weight is down.
Without question, the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder looks the part. Now his goal is to settle in, and make an impact in his first season with the Titans.
Those around him are optimistic.
"He is a beast,'' cornerback Jason McCourty said of Green-Beckham. "There's certain things you can't teach, and you can't teach a guy to be that big, and to be physical. With Dorial, it's just a matter of how fast can he learn it, and know it, so he can just go out there and play football. If he can get to the point where he can run free and be comfortable, he'll really start to develop more."
Selected 40th overall by the Titans, Green-Beckham arrived in town with plenty of question marks surrounding him.
While he finally had a support system in place after so many years of instability, he had something to prove following his departure from Missouri because of off-field issues that led to his dismissal. No one was talking about Green-Beckham's performance on the field in two years at Missouri — he caught 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns — when he spent the 2014 season at Oklahoma. It was supposed to be where he'd rebound.
Green-Beckham never got a chance to play with the Sooners, however, because the NCAA denied his request for a waiver that would have allowed him to play. So he spent all last fall at Oklahoma working on the scout team and going to school. When he stepped on the field for the Titans in the preseason opener at Atlanta on Aug. 14, it was his first action since the end of the 2013 season.
Bob Stoops, Green-Beckham's coach last season at Oklahoma, said the talented receiver learned from his troubled past, and predicted NFL success.
"A lot of times, through different circumstances, young people learn from mistakes, and I felt like he did," Stoops said. "There's a maturing process young people go through, and I believe Dorial has grown. Dorial has so much going for him. I think he is going to have a super career in the NFL. I hope it works out that way, and I believe it will. I really do."
The Titans have seen plenty of spunk from Green-Beckham on the field as he competes with defensive backs. In preseason games, he's offered positive signs.
But the Titans know he's a work in progress, still finding his way while surrounded by veterans. John Beckham described Green-Beckham as introverted when he joined the family in 2006. He's still quiet, but has opened up more of late.
"I let guys take on their own personality. He is competitive, and he'll snap back at you. And that's what you want as a coach. You don't want a guy to be totally docile,'' receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said. "If you rattle his cage, he'll come out and you see the fight in him more and more. He's competitive. He is still learning, but he's ahead of the curve, and we're doing as much as possible to accelerate that learning curve."
Green-Beckham said he's more motivated than he's ever been.
Yes, plenty has changed for Green-Beckham in the years since he finally found a home back in 2006, and began to find his way.
"It took me from being in a bad place, to having some support around me,'' Green-Beckham said. The Titans expect the 22-year-old receiver will be a good fit in Tennessee.
Green-Beckham knows there's one more person counting on him now.
"Having a son, it definitely makes things a lot more serious for me, knowing I have someone who is going to grow up and see his father playing in the National Football League,'' Green-Beckham said. "I want him to learn from me and know how hard he should work if it is something he wants to do in his future.
"It's going to take work for me to be successful [in the NFL], but I am willing to put out the effort. I want to work and be the best I can be. I know people are watching me, and I don't want to let anyone down."