HUNTINGTON — There are a few things you need to know about Jeremiah Benjamin right out the gate … besides the fact he likes to be called Jeremy.
His nickname is “Sweetness.”
He’s listed as a linebacker, but he’d prefer to play safety at Marshall.
On the Friday night after National Signing Day, he spent part of his evening working out.
Certainly, that nickname must have some kind of relevance or connection to NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, right?
“Actually Coach (Andrew) Rhoden gave me that nickname,” Benjamin said. “I have no idea why he called me ‘Sweetness.’ People ask me all the time what it means. I just point to Coach and say, “Ask him, he gave it to me.’”
Perhaps Coach Rhoden came up with the moniker because of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Benjamin’s ability to move past yard lines like a running back.
Football’s not the only sport he’s gifted enough to play. Benjamin said he runs track for “fun” and that last year he posted a time of 23 seconds in the 220 meters.
It’s that size and speed that got Benjamin invited to the Offense-Defense All American Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston. It marked the first time Jeremy had ventured outside Florida.
“It was great to play with the best of the best,” Benjamin said. “I started at safety and it was amazing.”
Benjamin’s recruiting pedigree shows he’s a 3-star recruit out of McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla. That Coach Doc Holliday and his staff could almost claim part-time citizenship status in south Florida helped lure him north.
MU assistant Coach JaJuan Seider’s recruiting tracks in the Sunshine State are easy to follow, and his reputation as a coach you can trust caught Benjamin’s attention. Jeremy’s high school coach was already on board.
“I’ve known Coach Holliday and Coach Seider for a while,” Rhoden said. “They’ve already got guys like Marquis Aiken, Corey Tindal and Kent Turene that we know. They’re getting a good one in Jeremy. He’s a heckuva player.”
His recruiting credentials back up Coach Rhoden’s superlatives.
Benjamin said he chose Marshall over West Virginia, Wake Forest and Florida International. The recruiting service Rivals lists scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Duke, FAU, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Minnesota, Navy, N.C. State, Ohio, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, SMU, Texas A&M and Tulane.
Holliday’s recruiting reputation in Florida has been cemented by 30 years of working the coach’s offices and football fields in the fertile recruiting soil there. It’s every coach for himself in a state where you can seemingly throw an out-pattern and hit a major college football prospect.
“Again it’s all about relationships,” Holliday said at his signing day news conference. “That’s why I think it’s so important that the head coach is involved in every kid and not just two weeks prior to signing day.”
Benjamin has his work ethic dialed in for his next trip out of Florida. He’ll get to Huntington this summer. In the meantime, his preparation for the next level of football continues.
“I work out every day,” Benjamin said. “Even Sundays, I’ll get a workout in before school starts again on Monday.”
Benjamin has his goals set on high.
“Off the field, I want to be the best person I can be,” Benjamin said. “Regardless of what happens with football, I want to leave school with a degree.
“On the field, I want to take a leadership role. Maybe not my first year, but I expect to be a leader. A lot of teams haven’t seen me play safety. I’m a little different than some players. I play really hard.”
Sounds like “Sweetness” is ready to run with the Herd.
Herd Insider columnist Keith Morehouse, the 2012 West Virginia Sportscaster of the Year, has covered Marshall athletics for years as the veteran sports director at WSAZ Newschannel 3.