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The robbery that changed a life

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- Emmanuel Beal knew he had a big decision to make.

That's pretty obvious when there's a gun pointed at your head. Actually, two guns.

It was happened early one morning around 3 a.m. back in 2013. Beal was working the counter at a gas station in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio when two men in black masks burst through the door and demanded money.

Even before that happened, Beal already knew he was in the wrong place.

This job was his Plan B.

Plan A had been to play football for Michigan State. A standout defensive end at Reynoldsburg High School, Beal had totaled 14 sacks for the Raiders as a senior in 2012. 

"I had my hopes and dreams on going to Michigan State," Beal said. "But I didn't have the grades. I'm not gonna lie -- my transcript was not graduation-eligible."

The Spartans linebacker coach took a look at his transcript and, according to Beal, said, "No way we're going to offer you."

Beal worked to improve his grades, but it wasn't enough. "It was enough to graduate, of course, but it still wasn't good enough," he said.

He could've gone to other lower-tiered schools; instead, he chose to brave the working world. His first gig was at a Limited Brands warehouse near his home. When his family moved from Reynoldsburg to Columbus, he decided to find a job near them. At the time, working the third shift at the nearby gas station didn't seem like a bad idea.

That's because Beal hadn't been playing close attention to the news.

"That summer, it was a spree going around. They were robbing gas stations and killing clerks," Beal said. "That never went through my head of 'Oh, I'm about to get killed."

Then, that one fateful night, the bell on the front door rang and Beal looked up from his register.

"First thing I saw was guns," he said. "Green lasers from the gun."

From behind their black masks, the robbers demanded that he empty the cash registers and fork over whatever was in there.

There were two cash registers. One of them belonged to the floor manager, who was currently hiding somewhere in the back. Beal knew her register was locked because she always followed the policy.

Beal's, however, was unlocked.

"Things I didn't do," he said.

Fearing for his life, he let the robbers take all the money, about 120 dollars, according to Beal.

"That's way too much to have in a register," Beal admitted. "You're supposed to have 50 dollars at max."

He also asked if they wanted cigarettes.

"They looked stressed," Beal said. "You're robbing the store. Why not take the cigarettes?"

They declined the offer and took off. It didn't take long for Beal to realize he also needed to get out of that store.

"It was at that moment I knew," Beal said. "Getting a gun pointed at your head... two guns pointed at your head... just wasn't the lifestyle for me. That really turned me for the best to become a football player."

Beal looked up the nearest junior college, Lackawanna, one state over in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After joining the football team, the 6-foot 210-pounder made another fateful, and ultimately, beneficial decision: shifting from defensive end to linebacker.

Within a year, Beal started getting the attention of several big-name schools, including the University of Oklahoma. In 2016, Beal joined the Sooners and quickly established himself as a force on defense, finishing second on the team with 81 tackles that season. After two seasons at OU, he joined the Seattle Seahawks before being waived after one season.

Last year, the Vipers drafted Beal in the sixth round of the defensive front seven phase. While the season got cut short, Beal went out in style, coming up with a fumble recovery in the team's final game against the Wildcats.

"I'm back on the rise in my career," Beal said. "So I'm pretty thankful to be where I'm at."