Editor's note: “Where are they now?”

The St. Tammany Farmer asked that question about some of the best athletes in local sports history and then we went out and found them.

Each edition this summer, we’ll reacquaint readers with one of these familiar faces. We’ll take a deep dive into the success stories that began in parish youth leagues, continued at local high schools and then colleges near and far. Many of these homegrown talents played professional sports, too, reaching the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

This week, we feature former Slidell High, LSU and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brett Bech.

Brett Bech had made a life out of catching on.

The former three-sport star at Slidell High School (football, baseball and soccer) was a walk-on for the LSU football program and was the school’s leading wide receiver for two of his seasons — a bright light in some of the program's darkest hours.

Despite the success, Bech went undrafted in 1995, but he latched on to the Mike Ditka-led New Orleans Saints from 1997-1999.

The 52-year-old Slidell native now is a scratch golfer living outside of Dallas, itching to play on the Senior Tour if he had the time, with four daughters (all former gymnasts) and working for OxeFit, a strength training device that uses electromagnetic motors that negate gravity.

Bech has helped OxeFit find users in the NFL (Cowboys, Chiefs and Rams among others) and more than 20 colleges (including LSU).

“I think eventually everyone will use this sort of technology,” Bech said. “We don’t spend a ton on marketing and branding, but we’re starting to get the word out. Hopefully, it’s the next big thing, it’s catching on more and more.”

And there it is again — Bech catching on. It’s been his way since youth sports back home in Slidell.

“I had a great group of friends (in Slidell) and great fun in athletics," he said. "We had a good ol’ time. Growing up there was great.”

“I coached three Bech boys,” said former Slidell Tigers football coach Wayne Grubb, referencing Brett, his older brother Malcholm III and younger brother Blain (who also played at LSU).

“Their dad was a great athlete. I always said as long as we got a Bech on our football team, we’re going to be pretty good.”

At Slidell High, Bech helped the soccer team win two state championships, and he was a standout on the baseball field, too. With Grubb’s football team, passing the ball wasn’t the first option in the wing-T attack, and he was lightly recruited for football out of high school.

“We’re playing Covington, I think it was for the district title, and I probably played 10 plays and separated my shoulder and that was the end of my high school career,” said Bech. “If I had known that, I maybe would have appreciated it more and smelled the roses. I tell my girls, ‘No one tells you when you’re living in the good old days, so play every play like it’s your last.’”

After Slidell High, Bech boldly decided to walk on at LSU. He grew a couple of inches and added 20 pounds to his frame, yet still maintained his fantastic straight-line speed. He caught one pass as a freshman, 13 as a sophomore.

“He’s just one of those kids that had ‘It,’” said Grubb. “There’s a lot of different words that people use to describe ‘It’, but Brett had ‘it’. He was that type of player — determined to being the best he could be.”

While it may sound strange now, the Tigers struggled mightily during Bech’s time on campus and never had a winning season in his four years there. In 1993, he led the Tigers with 30 catches. LSU beat Alabama, but lost to Arkansas in the home finale which cost them a berth in a bowl game.

His senior year was marked by one of the most forgettable (or unforgettable) games in LSU history — where LSU quarterback Jamie Howard had three interceptions returned for touchdowns and Auburn rallied from 23-9 down to win, 30-26. Bech’s double-tipped, 76-yard TD catch-and-run in the game ranks as one of the best plays in his college career but is largely an afterthought considering the sting of the loss. Then Tigers’ coach Curley Hallman would be fired with two games remaining.

“I remember a lot,” Bech said, laughing. “Most of it is bad.”

After a tryout with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars that went nowhere, Bech signed with the San Antonio Texans of the Canadian Football League (when the CFL tried to branch out south of the border). Believing he could play in the NFL, Bech decided to give it a shot with the Saints, who hired Ditka as head coach in 1997.

Bech clawed his way from the practice squad to be the team’s fourth wide receiver. He was a fan favorite as a local, of course, but also was known for his grit and sure hands.

Ditka’s Saints were not very good, compiling a 16-33 record in three years before he was fired. Bech, however, had a few highlight-reel moments, including a two-touchdown game against the Bills in 1998.

When Ditka was fired, Bech also packed up. He spent 2001 playing a lot of golf, and with the Vegas Outlaws of the Original XFL (Bech had seven catches that season). Then he played in the Arena Football League with the Indiana Firebirds.

When his playing days were over, Bech pivoted to the strength and conditioning side of the game, working for the Jets, then the Jaguars, and eventually the Cowboys in 2011. When Mike McCarthy came in as coach of the Cowboys in 2020 and changed the strength and conditioning leadership, Bech had to catch on again, this time with OxeFit.

“I had been out of a job for 10 days with the Cowboys and this was a Godsend,” he said. “I was able to stay home, my commute was basically the same, and I’m still in the Cowboys’ weight room a couple times a month.”

Bech visits Slidell for the holidays and enjoys being around his family. He went to the LSU/Auburn game at Death Valley this year. His nephew, Jack Bech, played for LSU for a couple of years before transferring to TCU.

“It’s always good to go back,” said Bech.

His wife, Cheri, framed a Saints jersey and LSU jersey that hangs in their home, but Bech doesn’t dwell on his playing days too much. In his free time, there’s lots of golf, and spending time with his girls. He shot a personal best 64 a while back and qualified for a Hooters Tour event in 2001. He jokes that he can still probably break 5.0 in the 40-yard dash, but he’d rather catch on with a golf tour.

“I didn’t make the cut back in 2001, but I realized that I wasn’t that far off,” Bech said. “I have never gotten a chance to really commit time and resources to (my golf game). Now that I’m 52, I can play on the Senior Tour and I would love to be able to give it 12-18 months and get the best equipment and practice and invest in it.

“If I can make it, great. And if not, I gave it a shot.”