Essex athlete Bennett to sign with Lane

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A.J. Bennett will continue to represent the hopes of a community Wednesday when he signs an offer to play football at NCAA Division II Lane College.

“It means a whole lot to this school and community,” John Essex head coach Jerome Antone said. “He’s a class kid.”

“It feels good to know that I’m going to get to keep playing football,” Bennett said.

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In 2009, Bennett became the Hornets’ first all-state football player in more than a decade when he hauled in 1,053 yards worth of passes and scored 11 touchdowns.

The loss of his head coach, his quarterback, most of his offensive line and the team’s leading rusher combined with a change in the offensive scheme put Bennett behind the proverbial eight ball before the start of his 2010 senior year.

Bennett perservered, emerging as the team’s leader while accounting for more than 1,200 yards rushing and receiving and reclaiming his spot as an all-state wide receiver in 2010.

Yet, despite his success on the field, Bennett had little luck on the recruiting trail until Tuesday morning when Lane College officially offered the John Essex athlete.

“It was getting to be kind of nerve-wracking for me because of the caliber of kid A.J. is,” Antone said of the recruiting process. “He deserves to be somewhere. He’s done a lot for John Essex.”

Bennett had opportunities to transfer out of John Essex and was tempted to do so at times, instead opting to stick with the school.

His faithfulness was rewarded Tuesday when the Jackson, Tenn. based university extended his football life.

“It’s going to motivate them,” Bennett said of the effect his signing will have on his John Essex teammates. “They’re going to feel like they can do the same thing.”

Bennett shined as an all-around athlete during his senior year, providing a spark in the kicking game and taking snaps at quarterback while also recording seven interceptions on defense.

Antone reports that Lane likes Bennett’s well-rounded athleticism and will likely utilize him both on defense and special teams.

“The main thing is he is getting an education,” Antone said.