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Kurt Benkert has been
touted for quarterback glory since he was 11 years olds.
Benkert's skills were
first noticed at that age when he quarterbacked the Fort Myers (FL)
Firecats to a third place finish in the national Pop Warner playoffs. He
also became an early YouTube sensation when a video showed him tossing a
game-winning touchdown pass from his own 13-yard line on fourth down as
time expired to propel the Firecats to a dramatic victory.
Article continues below
the following YouTube video.
Kurt Benkert's 87-yard scoring pass that lifted the Fort Myers Firecats
to victory over the Lehigh Raiders in a key Pop Warner game during the
“That was definitely the
year people got tipped off about me and my name started getting out
there,'' said Benkert, now 16 and a rising senior at Island Coast High
School in Cape Coral, FL. Benkert, who turns 17 next month, transferred
to Island Coast back in January from nearby Cape Coral High.
East Carolina jumped on
the Benkert bandwagon last spring after he completed 189 of 367 passes
for 2,771 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Cape Coral to a 7-5
finish. ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley extended a scholarship
offer to the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder and made him the Pirates' top
The latter was a major
reason Benkert gave a verbal commitment to ECU last Sunday.
“They kept emphasizing to
me that I was the guy they wanted and they weren't going to recruit any
other quarterbacks until I gave them a 'No,''' Benkert said. “It's hard
to turn someone down when you are their No. 1 priority.''
The pledge fulfilled a
major objective for the Pirates in recruiting for the Class of 2013. ECU
lost last year's starter, Dominique Davis, to graduation and Brad
Wornick will follow in his footsteps after the 2012 season. That will
leave the Pirates with three scholarship quarterbacks in junior Rio
Johnson, sophomore Shane Carden and redshirt freshman Cody Keith.
Central Florida, Marshall,
South Alabama, South Florida and Western Kentucky had also offered
Benkert, and N.C. State was also showing interest.
Riley convinced Benkert he
could thrive in ECU's spread offense, even though he's regarded as a
“At first I was looking
for a pro-style offense,'' Benkert said. “But the more I looked at them
(ECU) and talked to Coach Riley, I realized it would be fun playing in
that type of offense and breaking records.''
Attending ECU will take
Benkert back up the East coast closer to his birthplace, Baltimore, MD.
It was while living in Baltimore that Benkert's football career began a
year early at age four. He said his parents enrolled him in school a
year earlier than most just so he could play for the school's football
Kurt was playing both
quarterback and linebacker when the Benkerts moved to Florida for his
third-grade year. He continued playing both ways until the sixth grade
when his father suggested he focus on one position.
“He told me to pick one,''
Benkert said. “I kind of liked the whole idea of being in charge with
everything, so I stuck with quarterback. My seventh grade year our Pop
Warner team won the state championship and went to the nationals.''
A year later, Benkert was
back in Baltimore where he led the Perry Hall Gators to a state
recreation football championship.
Football and academics
earned Benkert a scholarship to Loyola Blakefield, a prestigious
all-boys school in Towson. He spent two seasons playing junior varsity
football there before Benkert asked his parents to make another change.
“Things were going OK, but
I just wasn't feeling it,'' Benkert said. “It wasn't my idea of what
high school should be — a private school with all guys. So I told my
parents I wasn't enjoying it, and we came back to Florida.''
Benkert decided to make
one more move in January by transferring to Island Coast, where he'd
continued to mature mentally and physically.
“When I was a sophomore I
was like 6-1 and 160 or 165 pounds,'' Benkert said. “By my junior year I
was 6-3, 187. This spring, when I got over to Island Coast, I've gotten
up to 208.''
Island Coast runs a spread
offense similar to ECU's in which Benkert expects to pass “60 or 70
percent of the time.'' Benkert said he'll bring that knowledge of the
passing game, a strong arm and an intense will to win to East Carolina.
“Whenever I'm on the field
I believe I have a chance to win,'' he said. “I never count my team out.
I believe that's the same attitude the coaching staff at East Carolina