Stan Bennett - Villanova - Article

Stan Bennett'Nova tackle Bennett happy in the trenches. The senior from California isn't looking for the limelight. He'll get his 42d start in a row tomorrow.


Stan Bennett never concerned himself with playing a high-profile position growing up in

Southern California. Being bigger than all the other kids from the fifth grade on, he was ticketed for the offensive line.

Some would think that's a thankless, miserable fate, but not Bennett. A 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior tackle for Villanova, he feels neither unappreciated nor neglected. He is thankful for the anonymity that his position provides. He is fueled by the praise he receives from his teammates and his coaches.

"There's not really any other position I'd rather play," Bennett said.

To be sure, there is plenty of acclaim for him. Bennett was named to the preseason first team in the Atlantic Ten Football Conference. When he lines up tomorrow against New Hampshire, it will mark his 42d consecutive start, which covers every game since he came to the Main Line from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

The Wildcats' co-captain helped anchor a line that protected record-setting quarterback Chris Boden the previous three years. Now the unit opens holes for tailback Brian Westbrook, who is 103 yards away from becoming Villanova's career rushing leader.

"It's some of the little joys that come with the game," said Bennett, a communications major. "For Brian to do something like this is great. He'll thank us and let us know. He'll try to put the pride on us. But he does a lot of that and that's what makes him a great football player.

"The guys I play with are great people to be around. The running backs and quarterbacks know that we're there and they'll always try to give us compliments or assure us that what's going on on the field is because of us. They know we're doing a good job. As far as [fans] seeing us and all that other stuff, that's not what I play for. The people on the field are what really counts."

Villanova coach Andy Talley is a big fan of Bennett, both his ability and his demeanor.

"He has the most even personality of anyone you'd ever known," Talley said. "He's always pleasant and a very unselfish individual. He's a guy you'd want on your team every day.

"He plays hard every single play. He plays with deep pride. He's very tenacious on the football field and a terrific pass blocker."

Bennett, who attended the same high school (Santa Margarita Catholic) in Orange County, Calif., as Brian and Brad Finneran, came east for his recruiting trip on a cold and wintry January night wearing just a windbreaker, but committed to Villanova anyway. Talley and his staff talked about red-shirting him as a freshman, but Bennett won the starting job at guard and fought off homesickness with the help of the Wildcats' other California players.

Now, two inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than he was in his first collegiate contest, Bennett has some NFL teams looking at him. Right now, though, he is focusing on helping the Wildcats get through their tough A-10 slate and into the postseason.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play football professionally," he said, "but I don't want to look past our season."

Bennett has reached that level of performance through hard work, aided by the encouragement of Mark Ferrante, the Wildcats' assistant coach in charge of the offensive line.

"You've got to work hard every day and keep one goal in mind - to become the best that you can," he said. "Coach Ferrante expects the best out of you. That's all he asks, and you want to give it to him. When he asks for your best, you're going to become a better player as time goes on. I don't know if it was specific things I did, but doing everything they asked me to do, and doing them the best I could."

As the leader, Bennett makes sure the offensive linemen remain a close-knit group. They hang out together and do things together. One ritual is a weekly meal a day or two before games, at the local Wendy's.

"We're low on funds," he said.

It's that leadership from Bennett and his fellow captains that helped Villanova rebound from an embarrassing 57-23 loss at James Madison earlier this month. And it's something the Wildcats will look to as they play three nationally-ranked teams - Richmond, Massachusetts, Delaware - in the final four weeks.

Bennett knows his college career is winding down. Right now, he's an offensive lineman having fun.

"I love football," he said. "I have a great time doing it. The biggest thing is that I'm playing with some of the best guys I've ever met."