Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Trying to Stay Grounded as His Star Rises
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 29, 2007; J04
From the Washington Post's High School Football Preview click

Parked high in the bleachers of West Potomac's gymnasium, Coach Eric Henderson has a bird's-eye view. He ignores the mix of junior varsity and freshmen players loudly getting in place for team pictures and points to another corner of the gym.

"I don't think he realizes how good he can be. I mean look at him, he's rolling around on the floor like a big, stupid kid," Henderson said as 6-foot-9, 285-pound senior left tackle Jimmy Bennett awkwardly shadow boxed with a teammate. "He just wants to be like everybody else."

But Bennett, a returning All-Met with scholarship offers from nearly all of the nation's top 20 college football programs, is dealing with expectations and pressures that make him a rarity among high school seniors. He is "an NFL prospect," his coach adds.

The pressures can come from coaches, family, friends, college recruiters, reporters. "It weighs you down a lot," says Bennett, who has not yielded a sack in his high school career. "Just that there are a lot of people expecting a lot out of you."

So how does Bennett cope?

"The way you go about things," he said. "Me and my dad found this quote and we said that we have to live by it: 'Your expectations of yourself have to be higher than others have for you.' So, if you have expectations for me to be All-Met, I'm going to try to go all-state or all-American."

He knows there is a line between modesty and self-confidence. "I don't flaunt what I have," Bennett said. "I do it on the field. I don't do it with my words."

Bennett said he has narrowed his choices to West Virginia, Connecticut, Boston College, Michigan State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. He has made 12 unofficial visits and he says the pressures of the recruiting process have helped him mature.

"The phone calls are going to start coming in September," Bennett said. "I'm going to try to tell schools if I'm interested or not. It's hard for me because I'm close with a lot of coaches and they are all nice to me and it's hard to say no to someone like that, but I'm going to have to do that."

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