Call him the letterman. After earning three letters at Brunswick School, former Bruin standout Joe Beninati earned his first college varsity football patch this fall as a freshman running back at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.
The Division III Generals, who carried at least 10 running backs (including three seniors), were the No. 1 rushing team in the NCAA this season, averaging 363 yards per game, and earned the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship, finishishing 8-2 for the third straight season. Playing time, for a freshman, was hard to come by. But, when Beninati got his chance he produced, averaging 30 yards per kick return and scoring a rushing touchdown in the team's 41-14 win over the Catholic University Cardinals, making him was the only freshman slot back to run for a TD for the Generals this season.
Greenwich Citizen recently caught up with Beninati -- a National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award winner for Connecticut and AP National Scholar while earning three varsity letters in football at Brunswick -- and asked him about his first season of college football and his time at Wick.
What is the biggest differences between college ball and your time at Wick?
I would say the biggest difference so far has been the speed that the game is played at. When the ball is snapped, things move really fast, and you have to make sure you put yourself in a position to make a play at the right time.
What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to?
The biggest adjustment for me was playing strictly offense. I was always a two-way player in high school, and the switch to just offense was a definite adjustment. Playing only running back, I had a lot more time to work on my skills and develop my understanding of the game offensively.
You had a pretty good freshman year. You averaged 30 yards per return on kick-offs and were the only freshman slot back to score a rushing touchdown for your senior-laden team. What do you attribute your success to?
A lot of my success can definitely be attributed to hard work in the off-season, and trying to stay in shape during the season, but most of it would have to go to the W&L coaching staff. Our coaches do an excellent job of making sure the younger players are prepared and ready to compete in case we are given the opportunity. The times that I was put in to the game, I felt ready to compete because of the way our coaching staff prepared us.
You were a National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award winner for Connecticut and an AP National Scholar while earning three varsity letters in football at Brunswick. How hard is it to balance sports and academics?
Balancing academics and athletics is something I've always had to work for, so if there's anything I've learned so far it's `don't fall behind.' I do what I can to make sure I stay on top of my assignments, but if I ever need help with something the professors at school have been more than willing to work with me.
What do you miss most about Wick?
Brunswick's a special place and there are definitely a lot of things that I miss. A couple of buddies and I went back to school recently to say hello to a bunch of our old teachers, and there's just a strong sense of mentorship within the community. Some of the teachers there are great role models and the students can really learn a lot from them.