BLUEFIELD, Va. —
One of the few and one of the proud.
That would describe how Charlie Benfield felt on Tuesday when the Graham senior was the focus of a signing ceremony to signify his desire to continue his education and play football at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“It is crazy, it is amazing, it is a good feeling,” Benfield said. “Most people don’t get to play on the next level, but those few who do, it has got to be a good feeling.”
Graham head coach Mike Williams understands that feeling, having played at Emory & Henry College, where current UVa-Wise head coach Dewey Lusk was his offensive coordinator for the Wasps.
“He will do well there, I really thought he would be a steal for a college to get because he has got good height, good physical presence...,” Williams said. “I know Coach Lusk real well. Coach Lusk actually recruited me when I was at Salem.
“That is kind of neat and I like when these guys stay fairly local and then I can go watch them play on Saturdays, I have missed being able to do that.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Benfield, who expects to line up at receiver for the Highland Cavaliers, had worked toward this moment for most of his young life.
“It has always been my dream ever since I was in little league to get to play college football,” Benfield said. “All I wanted to do was to play college football so I did everything I could to lead me up to this point.”
Benfield played receiver for Graham as a junior, but moved back to tailback last fall, and promptly ran for 1,028 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also remained at cornerback, and recorded 56 tackles and three interceptions for the G-Men.
“We were a little hesitant to move him out of the (receiver) spot,” said Williams, whose G-Men were able to get surprising production from freshman DeQuan Booker and sophomore Bryce Farris. “He was such a good receiver, we hated to lose him there, but we were a little thin at tailback and he had played that before in the past and he did real well with it,
“He had 1,5000 all-purpose yards this year, played outstanding for us. He really had a good offseason heading into his senior year, increased his strength significantly.
“Usually taller, thinner kids, the weight room is not generally their thing, but he had some real impressive lifts in the four core lifts in the offseason, much higher than you would think by looking at his frame.”
Benfield still caught 10 passes for Graham last season for another 144 yards, and also thrived as a return threat for the G-Men. He finished with more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and a team-high 14 touchdowns.
Yet, Benfield feels like Graham football did more than just prepare him for the next step in his athletic career.
“Mostly determination, Coach Williams and the program he gave us, it is not all about playing football,” Benfield said. “He has taught us more about morals and being men growing up instead of it being all about winning, and about a game.
“We spent hours upon hours in the weight room. We have done pyramids and the ‘Five Ps to Success’ and perfection. It is just great, it is a great feeling, it is more than just the winning and the stats.
“It is more about morals and being a man.”
Benfield had several options ahead of him, but liked what he saw at UVa-Wise, which finished 2-9 in its first season in NCAA Division II and the Mountain East Conference last fall.
“I went down there for a visit a while back, I really liked the campus,” said Benfield, who is exploring a major in pre-physical therapy or biology. “I liked the football team, money and stuff, it is good. Hopefully I am going to get down there and show them what I have got...
“I am looking forward to being part of building something. You can always take from scratch and build something and make something out of it. I am looking forward to the experience, that is what I want to go for.”
As for being prepared for playing at the next level, Benfield already knows what to expect.
“Slam some iron definitely,” he said.
“I have got to get my weight up, speed, get ready for college football. You go from high school hitting 185 pound linebackers to hitting 225 pound linebackers in college, that is a big difference.”
“It is always an adjustment, it is different,” added Williams. “I always try to tell the kids it is never going to be the same, but he is a sharp kid, he is goal-oriented, and he has got a good personality.
“I really think he is going to be successful at life, I think he is going to do well there and beyond.”
As for how Graham will replace Benfield in the fall, there will be plenty of opportunities for those who remain behind.
“He is part of a pretty sizable senior class that is graduating,” Williams said. “He did a lot for us, he was the full-time tailback and we are a tailback-oriented offense and he was really kind of a shutdown corner for us and he played multiple special teams.
“What we lose there is the equivalent of three or four players and somebody is going to have some big shoes to fill there.”
Benfield already knows what he will miss most about Graham.
“Friday nights,” he said, with a smile. “Saturday’s now are (my) Friday nights, you can’t play under the lights anymore. It all about the daytime. School, you have got to keep your head in the books because education comes first, it is crazy, it is ridiculous.”
In a good way.
“I am feeling like every high school athlete would, more astonished, proud, happy to go,” Benfield said. “Most people don’t get to play at the next level and it’s a big goal to accomplish so it feels great.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
One of the few and one of the proud.
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