Sept. 9, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Fayetteville State starting quarterback Robert Benjamin has been cleared by the NCAA to play football for the Broncos in their home opener against Bowie State on Saturday at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium.
Benjamin (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.), a junior transfer from Wyoming, did not play in Fayetteville State's season-opening 39-0 loss to UNC Pembroke in the Two Rivers Classic last week. He was awaiting final certification by the NCAA following his transfer to FSU in January. The NCAA ruled on Benjamin's status Thursday.
Benjamin, who led Phoenix College to the 2008 Valley of the Sun Bowl and began last season as the starter at Wyoming, has been prepped as the Broncos' starter throughout spring practice and during the 2010 preseason. Backup Andreas Hudson got the start under center for the Broncos last week, and finished 16-for-25 for 103 yards passing.
Fayetteville State head coach Kenny Phillips praised Hudson for his effort in last week's opener after limited preparation. Still, it'll be nice to have Benjamin back on the field.
"I think Robert has the total package," said Phillips, who is in his 11th season coaching the defending CIAA Champion Broncos. "He throws the ball very well, including the deep ball. And on top of that, he has the athletic ability that when things break down around him, he can make a defense very, very frustrated. When you have a quarterback that, when things break down and you go to tackle him and he's not there anymore, that's frustrating for you as a football team."
Phillips, with an extensive background coaching defense, would know. But there is more to Benjamin that just what he brings between the white lines.
"I tell you what, he's a special one to have," Phillips said of his quarterback. "He's got a very good football IQ. He gives us some leadership at that position that we haven't had in a long time."
To Benjamin, though, it isn't about him. He wants to spread the ball around, get teammates involved and keep them focused on the ultimate task.
"I feel like I can bring good leadership and smarts to the game with a lot of experience," Benjamin said. "I may bring a lot of excitement to the field, but as one of the 11, I just want to be one who is able to help push the other 10 guys across the goal line."
He's also a solid dual threat. Benjamin showed poise and accuracy out of the pocket and while rolling out during Fayetteville State's recent Blue and White Game on Aug. 28. He went through his progressions, looked off receivers and then delivered the ball in another direction. He wisely used his check-down receiver when nothing was there downfield, and brought a presence to the huddle that is undeniable.
"He's calm and collected in the pocket," said guard Larry McDonald (Jr., Mebane, NC). "He doesn't holler; he's just a chill person. He brings all the leadership, calm and collected, to the whole offense. You're not as flustered. He's a great quarterback to have. He not only makes the offensive line look good, he makes the whole team look good."
Benjamin was in Fayetteville for the spring semester, allowing him precious time to work under Offensive Coordinator Dick Portee.
"Him coming in during the spring was a big plus for us," says Phillips. "He had the opportunity to learn the offense from Coach Portee."