Friday, August 7, 2009

Benjamin looking to catch up with hard work

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior quarterback Robert Benjamin, 11, just gets the pass off under a rush from sophomore linebacker Bryson Studnicka on Friday.

By Richard Anderson

Robert Benjamin learned the hard way.

The first recruit in Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s initial class, instead of enrolling at Wyoming last January and then practicing with the Cowboys, Benjamin was left behind in Phoenix trying to catch up with his academics.

Instead of enrolling in summer school at UW and working out with his new teammates, Benjamin was still in Arizona, trying to finish his associate degree.

Instead of attempting to get a leg up on his competition at quarterback, Benjamin was lagging behind.

Benjamin has been in Laramie for a week now and is attempting to make for lost time.

Will his natural ability be enough to convince Christensen and the UW coaching staff that he has what it takes to lead the Cowboy? Despite those obstacles, that remains to be seen.

All Benjamin is focused on now is getting back into the swing of things and being a Cowboy.

“This is where I want to be,” Benjamin said on Friday. “It’s building a family and a winning environment here. I want to be part of it.”

The junior transfer from Phoenix Community College said he can’t worry about behind a little behind. It’s what lies ahead of him that matters the most.

“I just have to come in, work hard in practice and go from there,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin admits now that school is his No. 1 priority. That hadn’t always been the case.

“Don’t slack off in school. Get it taken care of the first time and I won’t have to have the situation that occurred,” Benjamin said, almost soundly like a spokesman for youngsters to get their own education. “If you don’t learn, you won’t see the light. I have to learn, no matter what.”

Christensen said that Benjamin worked “extremely hard,” and had a lot of work to get done academically this summer.

“And he did it,” Christensen said. “He put a lot into it and he is excited to be here.”

Even though he has been at UW for a short time, Benjamin said that he is enjoying himself, especially the weather. The Cowboys practiced at about 65 degrees Friday morning, likely about 30 degrees cooler than the temperate in Phoenix.

“It’s a fun place to be right now,” Benjamin said with a smile. I’m enjoying the weather.”

Benjamin was the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region I Offensive Player of the Year this past season. In addition to being the Region I Offensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Benjamin was an Honorable Mention NJCAA All-American. He was one of only eight junior college quarterbacks nationally to earn All-America honors from the NJCAA last season.

Last season, he completed 192 of 355 pass attempts (54.1 percent) for 2,391 yards, 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also ran for 468 yards, for a total of 2,859 yards of total offense in leading Phoenix College to a No. 12 ranking in the final 2008 NJCAA National Poll.

To take the next step with the Cowboys, Benjamin said that he is just trying to take it day-by-day at practice and let the coaches make the evaluation of his progress in running the UW spread offense.

“The offense is very fun and I have to take it for what it is,” he said.

The Wyoming coaching staff has maintained that he won’t name a starter until just before the season opener against Weber State. Despite his obstacles in getting to Laramie, Benjamin said that all four quarterbacks have an equal shot.

“It’s just a matter of who steps up to the plate and who wants to lead this football team,” he said. “I just have to get back to work.”

Now that he is here, there will be plenty of opportunities for Benjamin to do just that.

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