By Larry Blustein

larry block6 UM, NFL Standout Donnell Bennett Steals The SpotlightSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

Donnell Bennett, Jr. never had anything handed to him. He fought for everything he achieved in his professional life by out-working everyone else around him.

Last Saturday, the eight year NFL veteran, who stayed at home and went to the University of Miami, took center stage – as the guest speaker at the Sixth Annual Wallace McIntosh –“Coach Mac” High School 7-on-7 Tournament at Mullins Park in Coral Springs.

While Western was capturing the team title – beating Taravella for the title – it was Bennett that the players and coaches listened to.

As a standout wrestler and fullback at Cardinal Gibbons, Bennett went on to play football for the Hurricanes and in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins. He was drafted in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft.

While Bennett was not the biggest, fastest or best, his belief in being able to outwork and outlearn anyone he came up against, was the reason he did so well at every step of his playing career.

“I remember when I was at Miami and they signed James Stewart out of Vero Beach,” Bennett said to the players and coaches in attendance. “This was an All-American who at 6-3, 235 was big, fast and everyone had him coming in and starting right away.”

As the athletes from Western, Taravella, Pines Charter, Spanish River, Coral Glades Blanche Ely and South Plantation listened, Bennett told them how he not only beat Stewart out, but why the heralded runner wasn’t a starter for two years.

“From the time James came in, I wanted him to learn everything,” Bennett recalled. “I wanted him to push me and make me work harder, so I taught him the playbook and went on and pushed myself right into the NFL. All of you can do the same thing, but you have to outwork everyone to accomplish that.”

Bennett is indeed an icon in South Florida that many take for granted, but he is the ultimate success story who has gone on to make an impact as a husband to Adrienne, and father to sons Matthew, Donnell III, Coleman, and Caden.

“Having Donnell come out here and share what his path to success was really priceless,” said Coach McIntosh, a longtime friend. “From every standpoint of his life, he is what a role model should be like.”

Bennett, who is back at Cardinal Gibbons – where his son is a star linebacker – has extensive coaching experience with Cardinal Gibbons, Northeast and Coral Springs Christian. He loves being around the game.

“I love to come out see what’s going with these talented athletes and Coach Mac is what makes this sport so great,” Bennett said. “He loves these young men and nothing pleases him more than having an event like this.”


The offseason has been kind indeed to head coach Adam Ratkevich and his Western Wildcats.

This program is really making some noise here in the summer – standing toe-to-toe with South Florida’s elite 7-on-7 teams.

The 7-on-7 season has watched an offensive explosion that runs behind senior quarterback Harrison Story. He has emerged as one of the South Florida’s top run/pass prospects.

Also effective this summer on offense are running backs Keshaun Clarke (2018) and Daniel Colon (2018), and receivers Jordan Smith (2018), Steffen Fernand (2018), Dannie Sanders (2018) and Jaedan Fagan (2018).

Defensively, the return of Robert Ruebel from Plantation American Heritage, and the transfer of Teshaun Smith (2018), the secondary is as good as you will find. Add in Frank Heran (2018) and safety Rueben Oliver (2018) and things get better.

There are also linebackers Jordan Chambers (2018) and Dylan Litsenberger (2018).

“This team has worked hard all summer to get better,” Ratkevich said. “This has been fun for the players and those parents and fans who continue to support us.”

In addition to Wildcats who were impressive and capture the attention – there were others in this quality tournament.

The Coach Mac event, which has brought in so many local teams over the years, will change format starting in 2018. While the local programs are welcome to come, he wants to raise the competition bar and open the event – which will once again be around the Fourth of July holiday.

“Next year, I am advertising this tournament to anyone across the country who would love to come to South Florida and spend a few days,” Coach McIntosh said. “We have a great area to draw teams in from all over and spend some time down here and maybe even visit FAU, FIU and Miami while they are down. I would like this to one day be a national holiday team event that will attract some of the powers.”


Here is another program that have established themselves as a force in the offseason – and now looks to follow a productive spring into 2017. At the event on Saturday, you had some impressive athletes that stepped up.


2019 – Deshawn Davis, WR

2020 – Courtney Gordon,

2019 – Dennis Peete, WR

2020 – Jashawn Prophet, CB

2018 – Yanez Rogers, QB


One of the hardest working coaches – Christian Baldwin – has continued to teach and build this program. This is a team that has gotten better and some of athletes that are setting the table for the future are very young.


2021 – Breon Aaron, DB/WR

2021 – Chris Aaron, LB

2018 – Cameron Brooks, QB

2020 – Josiah Delice, WR

2021 – Devante Sanchez, DB


Here is a program that has been steady through the years, but never had enough to compete with the big boys every week, but things are changing and there are some quality athletes who figure to make a solid impact in 2017. Solid defensive prospects are emerging.


2019 – Roman Benitez, S

2018 – Anthony Jones, CB

2020 – Jhared Josue, WR/CB

2019 – William Manuel, QB

2019 – Ralph Stewart, CB

SOUTH PLANTATION PALADINS. Head Coach Dominic Anderson and his staff have assembled some talented athletes – and are looking to this off season as a place to start infusing the new with the veteran prospects.


2018 – Stephen Greaves, DL

2018 – Dawson Hill, RB

2018 – Tihon Hines, Athlete

2018 – Tyrone Jones, SS

2018 – Jacquez Thomas, WR

2019 – Hammershaw White, WR/DB

2018 – Tyler Willis, QB


One of those programs that you love to see at events such as this. Not a long ride to play against some very good football teams. With a few key athletes, this is a program that is looking to climb the tough district ladder slowly. Quality athletes have come aboard and are making a difference.


2018 – Sam Burton, RB/LB

2020 – Zack Ceci, LB

2018 – Tyler Mitterwald, LB/DB

2018 – Anthony Petillo, QB

2019 – L.J. Wilson, WR/DB

TARAVELLA TROJANS. Through the years, Coach Charles Hafley has always made an impact at the football programs he has been a part of. With the Trojans, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel – where a win or two can change the fortunes of an entire community and alumni base – just like that. This team ended in second place and posted a 5-1 record.


2020 – Elvens Joseph, Athlete

2021 – Jerimaiya Mitchell, CB

2019 – Jacquez Russ, LB

2018 – Moses Snell, Jr., CB

2018 – Jordan Walsh, WR

2018 – Quentin William, CB

2019 – Vantravious Williams, WR

Catch the South Florida High Sports Radio Show each Monday night (9-10) on WQAM (560AM). For the past 10 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot!

south florida high school sports UM, NFL Standout Donnell Bennett Steals The Spotlight


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