WVU Linebacker Thankful For Much As Senior Season Closes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Thanksgiving in the Benton house was always a cause for celebration.
Not just because Al-Rasheed’s mom, Kim, would make not only turkey, but also some finger lickin’ chicken, but because it was one of the few times the WVU linebacker was together with most of his family – all seven siblings included.
It became an annual gathering in the Newark area, where Benton grew up and became a two-time Super Essex Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Shabazz High in New Jersey.
“I used to cook,” he said. “My last three years at home me and my brother did the cooking to take some off my mother. So I’m pretty sure she’s a little upset that I am gone because she has been doing the cooking lately. That’s one of the only times where all my family is normally around and in the vicinity. It’s one of the few holidays where we do have the whole family there, so it’s always great for me.”
Benton has been gone from the family celebration for the last four years, his time spent with teammates at West Virginia. But the memories are there, of time with parents, brothers, sisters and more, and of the three F’s that are the centerpiece of so many Thanksgivings in family, food and football.
“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays,” Benton said. “I enjoy good food, I enjoy good football and you get the best of both of those on Thanksgiving. It’s always a great day to be around your family and enjoy some good food, watch some good football. Have a great time. Not a lot of other things are going on that day, so that’s the time to focus in on those three key things.”
There will be quite a bit going on for Benton this Thanksgiving as the senior wraps up among the most respected careers in West Virginia history. Not only is Benton a high-caliber player and team captain, but he has developed into one of the finest leaders the program has ever known. From his ability to explain every nuance of the defense from all 11 positions to motivating and inspiring teammates, WVU should be thankful itself for the five years Benton has spent in Morgantown.
Rarely has a player taken to heart his role across multiple aspects of play, and done so with a continuous drive and determination that will leave a gigantic void for next season. If there was an award for the utmost respect from teammates, Benton ad fellow captain Eli Wellman would likely win it by a landslide. It’s why, for the first time ever, head coach Dana Holgorsen named the two permanent team captains in August, forgoing the usual end of year selections.
Now, in his final go-around against the Sooners, there’s on more check on the list that would make for an even more rewarding holiday.
“We haven’t beat them since I have been here,” Benton said. “That’s definitely something I want to get in before I get out of here. We have done a lot of firsts in my time here. That is one of the last ones on the bucket list, so it would mean a lot to cross that off.”
Besides that wish, which sits atop the list, Benton has one other that annually makes or breaks the Thanksgiving meal at home, one singular dish that’s a must-have from mom’s kitchen.
“Mac and cheese. There’s something about it,” he said. “There’s something about when that yam juice hits that mac and cheese, that combo is good. I’m tellin’ you, that yam – you get a little bit of that cinnamon from that yam juice on that mac and cheese, it’s pretty good. I don’t know if I could make it through Thanksgiving without a good portion of my mac and cheese.”
Here’s hoping you get that helping and more, Al. And thanks. For everything.