On the first day of football practice in the spring of 2019, Tyrice Beverette was defending a receiver on a post route when the quarterback unloaded a deep ball and Beverette turned to track it in the air.

As the former Lakewood star was running downfield, he could hear the players behind him yelling, “Watch out! Watch out!”

At the last second, he turned his head and swerved before he nearly slammed face-first into the goalpost.

Welcome to the Canadian Football League, kid. The goalposts are at the front of the end zone here.

“That was pretty funny,” Beverette said. “Some things up here are different, but it doesn’t come into play as much as people think.”

Beverette, 28, who took Lakewood from the abyss of a 33-game losing streak to a playoff contender and then blossomed at Stony Brook, is now a star in Canada. He’s four seasons into a Canadian adventure in which he’s become one of the best defensive players in the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes.

“Football can definitely take you to places you have never experienced,” Beverette said.

Finding a Home up North

Beverette was a three-time All-CAA performer during a decorated career at Stony Brook between 2014-17, where he played a rover position that was like a hybrid safety-linebacker spot. He finished his career with 262 tackles, 27.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, 17 pass break-ups, 7 forced fumbles, and 5 interceptions while leading the team in tackles in his last two seasons.

However, in his final collegiate game, he tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder. It couldn’t have come at a worse time, as he was pursuing his NFL dream. He went to camp with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, where he played in parts of two preseason games and tried to battle through a right shoulder injury as well. He was cut by the Bengals, leaving his football career at a crossroads.

“That was my opportunity,” he said. “Of course, (the NFL) is everyone’s dream. But I just wanted to play football, do what I can do, and show that I can play with the best of them.”

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Beverette (left) is one of the top defensive players in the CFL. (Photo courtesy of the Montreal Alouettes)

Shawn Brown, then the general manager of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, had been tracking Beverette since his days at Stony Brook. He reached out to see if he wanted to give the CFL a chance.

“He was like, ‘It’s the CFL, what do you think?’” said Lakewood head coach L.J. Clark, who coached Beverette in high school. “I was like, ‘Playing professional football is playing professional football. You should give it a shot.’”

“To be honest, I always had heard about the CFL,” Beverette said. “I saw it a few times on TV. I remember reading up on (former Dolphins star) Cameron Wake, and seeing his story of going from the CFL to making an impact on the NFL. It just motivated me.”

At that time, the reincarnations of the XFL and USFL didn’t exist, so it was either the NFL or the CFL.

“I knew I had a lot left in me,” Beverette said.

Making the Adjustment

Beverette signed with Hamilton and paid his dues as a special teams player for his two seasons with the Tiger-Cats.

In the process, he had to learn the new rules and acclimate himself to a lot more running. The CFL field is 110 yards long and 65 yards wide, compared to 100 and 53.3 in the NFL. The end zones are 20 yards deep in the CFL, compared to 10 in the NFL.

“You’ve got to cover a lot more ground,” Beverette said. “As a will linebacker (on Montreal), you play in the boundary. The boundary in the States is not too much space, but here it’s like you’re playing in the field.

“When I first started, I was told by guys that you have to make a name on special teams before the coaches trust you. I embraced the process because I love football, and it was an opportunity. The competition was better than I thought, but I was like, ‘I can do more than just hang with these guys.’”

The former Piner also had to deal with life off the field in a foreign country.

“The biggest thing was being away from my family and close friends,” he said. “But countless amounts of times, my mom and sisters have come up here. They love to travel and show support.”

Beverette was part of a Hamilton team that played in two Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021 – the CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl. (There was no season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Hamilton lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in both games.

“It was an experience to remember,” Beverette said. “There’s not a lot of people who get to do that. It was a crazy atmosphere, just the whole experience leading up to it. It’s treated like a big deal.”

However, Beverette felt he could contribute more than just on special teams. That led him to signing with Montreal last year, where he has blossomed into one of the top defensive players in the league. He currently ranks fifth in tackles in the CFL with 95 for an Alouettes team that's 10-7 and in second place in the East Division.

He re-signed with Montreal in January after a breakout season last year in which he finished with 56 defensive tackles, 21 special teams tackles, four knockdowns, three fumble recoveries, one interception, and one forced fumble over 18 games.

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Beverette spent his first two CFL seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before signing with the Montreal Alouettes. (Photo courtesy of the Montreal Alouettes)

“I’m honestly thankful just to show what I can do,” he said. “(Montreal defensive coordinator) Coach (Noel) Thorpe, he uses me like I dreamed of being used. As a guy who can play safety and linebacker, he puts me in a position to make a lot of plays doing both. His style of play is very aggressive. I felt like it fit my game.”

Beverette also realized how much of a different part of Canada he was in the first time he drove just outside Montreal.

“I was trying to get gas and we literally didn’t understand each other because he only spoke French,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to be like that. At first I was questioning it like, ‘Is it going to be like this everywhere?’ But luckily in the city there’s plenty of people who speak English.”

He hasn’t given up on his NFL dream. One of his former Tiger-Cats teammates, tight end Nikola Kalinic, signed a futures contract with the Indianapolis Colts last year, so he knows it’s possible. Kalinic is now on the practice squad for the Los Angeles Rams.

“They have talent up here,” Beverette said. “I just worry about myself and try to play my ‘A’ game every time out.”

Piner Pantheon

One place Beverette will always be revered is Lakewood.

The Piners were mired in a 33-game losing streak during his freshman year that they snapped under legendary coach Warren Wolf. Clark took over the next season, and Lakewood finished 2-8.

Beverette, who played quarterback and safety/linebacker in high school, was an obvious star who was receiving feelers from schools all over the state to transfer, but he stuck with Lakewood. He also was the Shore Conference Player of the Year in basketball, where the Piners won the Shore Conference Tournament, but he did not abandon football.

“That’s one thing about me. I’m a very loyal person,” he said. “I could’ve gone somewhere else, but that was the team I started with, and that was the team I was gonna build with.”

By Beverette’s junior year, the Piners were a 7-3 playoff team that nearly upset a Neptune squad that reached a sectional final. They followed that with a 6-5 season and another playoff berth, which was a stunning turnaround from a program in such a bad place that there were whispers it might be disbanded.

“Playing on a team that couldn’t find a way to win and for it to slowly turn around like that, it just felt good,” Beverette said. “Being part of that, you just become brothers. I still see a lot of guys who I’ll forever have love in my heart for. It just always taught me to keep fighting.”

He laid the groundwork for future stars like Amir Tyler and Chapelle Russell, the latter of whom is a linebacker on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We talk about it all the time,” Clark said. “He wrote his own legacy. When Tyrice spoke, even coaches listened. He's the best leader of men I've ever seen. We still call him ‘The Captain.’”

From those beginnings at Lakewood to his time at Stony Brook, he has left an indelible mark everywhere he’s played. And now that includes Canada.

“I would just say, ‘Bet on yourself,’” Beverette said. “That’s the main focus. Believing in yourself, and putting the work in.”

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