Stephan Benjamin couldn’t do much more than wait. Wait for his opportunity. Wait for a chance to prove himself, to prove that a Campus Magnet football player belonged in the game.
The wide receiver wasn’t getting much playing time in the first half of the 13th annual Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge Tuesday night at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium. So, he became New York City coach Fred Olivieri’s shadow.
“Everywhere he walked,” Benjamin said, “I was there like a hound dog.”
The 6-foot-5 Rosedale native finally did get his shot. He caught his first pass with 10:07 left in the third, but, once again, the offense forgot about him. He never sulked. Just waited. And on the final drive, quarterback Jeffrey Legree hit Benjamin three times — including an 8-yard touchdown strike which gave New York City a 21-20 lead with 24 seconds left in the game.
It turned out to be the final margin of victory in the City vs. Long Island all-star game, which boasted a record crowd of 11,005.
“They should have been throwing to him all game,” said Campus Magnet coach Eric Barnett, who watched from the stands.
That’s OK. Benjamin seems to have made a career out of waiting. He had a solid two seasons at Campus Magnet, but when he expected a a Division I offer, it never came. He settled for Division II American International in Springfield, Mass.
“I deserve Division I, but I don’t care,” Benjamin said. “I’m gonna go Division II and bust [my butt].”
Barnett saw potential in the lanky teen as a sophomore, bringing him up early for varsity. The coach, going into his fourth year, thinks some schools might have missed the boat. Benjamin also caught a 35-yard touchdown June 9 in the Governor’s Bowl, pitting New York all-stars against New Jersey ones.
“He’s had a better postseason than regular season,” Barnett said. “I’ve been telling people, the kid is still developing. AIC is getting a Division I ball player.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@
©2008 Community News Group
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