ASHBURN, Va. -- If it sounds improbable that John Beck is a genuine candidate to be the Washington Redskins starting quarterback, consider the odds he faced daily during his two years as a missionary for the Mormon church in Lisbon, Portugal.
"You can knock on a couple of hundred doors a day and everybody shuts it," the Washington Redskins quarterback said. "From a mental standpoint, you just have to keep believing that the next door could be the one that somebody opens and says 'We'd love to talk to you.' I can remember stretches of days where nobody wanted to talk to you and all of a sudden -- bam -- somebody does, and those 400 knocked doors are worth it."
Such patience and persistence has also served Beck well in the NFL, where he has been a bench-warmer since playing in five games as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins in 2007.
He became an odd man out when Bill Parcells was hired to run the Dolphins and had little chance of moving up the depth chart in his one season with the Baltimore Ravens, but the door has opened wide since he joined the Redskins last year. Coach Mike Shanahan is an unabashed Beck fan, and the starting job will be available this fall with the expected departure of Donovan McNabb.
"You want to play for a team where the coach believes in you," Beck said Wednesday after the second day of a minicamp organized by Redskins players during the lockout. "I've been in a situation where I've been on a team where I wasn't the guy that the staff chose -- I was just a guy. It's different. To survive and be successful in the NFL you have to be on a team where the coaches believe in you, and you have to earn the players' confidence by the way you perform on the field."
And for those who wonder whether Beck could be ready for the challenge given the long gap since his last regular season appearance, he has a ready answer: The mission in Portugal, which he served after high school, didn't stop him from becoming a top-notch quarterback at BYU.
"I won't be the first time I've gone a few years without playing football," he said. "I was in another country, so this is kind of Round 2 of not playing games for a while. But the good thing is I've been practicing; I've been in preseason games."
Beck's sudden emergence as a co-favorite - along with free agent Rex Grossman -- to be the Redskins starter has made him much in demand, especially for football fans starved for news during the work stoppage. Among the interesting nuggets offered Wednesday: He is an Eagle Scout whose least favorite merit badge was environmental science -- because it meant he had to sit at a pond for much of the day taking notes about plants and animals -- and his favorite was dog care.
"I had to convince my parents to let me have a dog," Beck said, "and the only way that they would do it was if I earned my dog care merit badge, so that badge was the most meaningful to me."
Beck and Grossman are the only quarterbacks at the Redskins workouts, being held at a Virginia high school whose location is undisclosed to the public so as not to disrupt activities at the school. Beck flew in from San Diego for the three days of practices and had to work on adrenaline the first day because his weather-delayed flight didn't arrive in Washington until 3 a.m. ET Tuesday morning.
When Tuesday night came, he was finally able to relax. He crashed in his hotel room and watched "The Brady 6," which chronicles the quarterbacks taken the year Tom Brady was drafted.
"I was so fired up," he said, "I wanted to have another practice."
Beck and Grossman both want to be the starter this fall -- and both have no qualms about saying it -- but that has had no discernable effect on their working relationship. Wednesday's 90-minute practice was crisp and well-run, with 41 players working efficiently through a variety of drills.
Beck and Grossman alternate taking snaps, and both have stayed on the field after practice each day to spend extra time working with young receivers.
"I just tried to put myself in their shoes," Beck said. "If I was one of them, I would want to know what the heck's going on."
Beck will turn 30 in August, so it would appear he's running out of chances to be an NFL starter. Of course, the two-year mission meant that he finished college later than most, but he also points out that his body is fresh and injury-free from his seasons on the sidelines.
Plus, he said he's always been a late bloomer. He said it was embarrassing that he only had to pluck a couple of hairs to make himself look good for his senior prom.
"I grew so late in life. I grew an inch and a half after I graduated high school," he said. "I wasn't one of those guys who had the beard when I was 16, so I don't feel I'm 29, that's for dang sure."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press