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Big, Bad Brent
Sixty-eight to nothing.
That was the score of the game in which Brent Benedict’s high school football career ended. The mammoth offensive lineman from The Bolles School in Jacksonville was hurt on a scoring play in fact.
Benedict, who signed to play football at Georgia in February and will enroll in June, was trailing behind on the play that made the score 52-0 Bolles.
Seems pretty senseless, right? Not at Bolles, where blowouts are the norm and the starters know they will be staying in the game through the first half regardless of the score.
“As dominant as we are in our division, you know you have to play at least half the game regardless of the score because you have to be ready for playoffs when they happen,” Benedict said. “(Blowouts) happen at Bolles a lot.”
The randomness of the injury doesn’t seem to bother Benedict either.
“There was no contact or anything. I was just running behind the play. It’s really weird that I did so much damage to it,” said Benedict, who tore his ACL. “I think it’s part of the plan of what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”
There are benefits to attending Bolles aside from the 68-0 blowouts. With dozens of the school’s alumni playing major college football – including Georgia’s Shaun Chapas – athletes at The Bolles School have a pipeline to famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Alabama.
“We were very fortunate we were able to get in, and he did the surgery so quickly,” Benedict said. “I definitely feel that’s a main part to what he has gotten me back faster.
Andrews operated on Benedict’s knee shortly after the injury, which occurred during the seventh game of the season, and the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder began an aggressive rehab campaign as quickly as he could.
In fact, for the last half of Benedict’s school year, rather than attend school in the mornings he did his physical therapy then, and concentrated on his classroom duties in the afternoon.
“I’m doing absolutely everything I can to be ready,” he said.
The hard work has paid off. An early February checkup revealed that Benedict’s recovery was ahead of schedule, and he was cleared to begin squatting with low weight at that time.
“That was unexpected and (it’s healing) much quicker than anticipated, so we were very happy with that,” Benedict said. “We’re getting more and more aggressive with physical therapy. It was tough not being able to workout, to just basically be lazy.”
Benedict is not conceding anything to his injury. He still hopes to compete for playing time as a true freshman.
“Hopefully, my body will allow it,” he said.
There was little doubt before Benedict’s injury that he is the kind of player who could compete for immediate playing time. Benedict was rated a four-star prospect and the nation’s 10th-best offensive tackle as a senior. (Although he’s listed as a tackle, Benedict played all three line positions in high school and would be willing to try any at the collegiate level, he said.)
“He is an aggressive offensive linemen that finishes his blocks, that understands blocking schemes, that can run block, that can pass protect, and that has a high level of intelligence,” Scout.com South recruiting analyst Chad Simmons wrote of Benedict. There are not many faults in his game.”
Benedict is a more proficient run-blocker than pass-blocker, he said, because his team featured a predominantly running offense through his first three seasons. Bolles changed to a passing attack in Benedict’s senior season, and the six games he played in that system helped his pass blocking, he said.
“I definitely got stronger at that,” he said. “I’m excited to get up there and get better.”
Benedict picked Georgia early in the recruiting process. He made his verbal commitment in June, well before his official visit. His decision came after Benedict and his father made a whirlwind tour of almost a dozen colleges during the spring break of his junior season.
“A few stood out, but Georgia was just different for me,” he said. “They are good people, good guys. The checklist that you have as a recruit, where you say, I want that and that and that--they really exceeded everything.”
Benedict will bring a family tradition of athleticism to Athens. In fact, he’ll be carrying with him some unfinished business of his older brother.
Heath Benedict was a high-profile recruit like his younger brother and eventually signed with Tennessee in 2004. After transferring from Knoxville, Heath Benedict, also an offensive lineman, went on to star at Newberry College, where he was named a Little All-American. He became the first Division II player in four seasons to be invited to the Senior Bowl, which he attended in 2008, and he was projected to be an NFL Draft selection that year.
However, Heath Benedict died on Easter day 2008 from a previously undetected heart defect.
“Nobody could see it coming,” Brent Benedict said.
Now Brent Benedict will try to help fulfill his brother’s dreams while making his own come true.
“I was going to do this if he continued to play or whatever else, but I definitely feel something there,” Brent said. “I’m doing my own thing, but there is definitely a part of me that’s playing for him.”