Log onto the personal webpage of graduating senior graphic design student Mykel Benson, and the first sound to play is the soft, steady rhythm Goapele’s “Closer.” The former Florida A&M tight-end and third baseman said he chose this song because it closely symbolizes his mindset: every day brings him closer to achieving his dreams.
And there are many.
Benson said he isn’t uneasy about his future, but energized about what is next after graduation. A tryout May 8 with the United Football League is in the immediate future.
“I’m just letting everything fall into place,” Benson said. “If football doesn’t work out, my next plan is to join the Air Force. That’s pretty much decided…I don’t feel like sitting at home waiting on a job. I feel like the military will push me into a career.”
Benson’s inspiration for joining the Air Force came from a desire to follow in the footsteps of whom he considers to be his number one supporter and coach: his dad.
“My dad has been there for me and has been my coach since I was 4 years old,” Benson said. “He always emphasized that on or off the field discipline will take you everywhere.”
Benson’s commitment to all attempted endeavors is a trait acknowledged by his peers and coaches. Florida A&M’s head football coach Joe Taylor said Benson’s strong work ethic, combined with his “passion for the game, athletics and competition,” made him an invaluable addition to the team.
“He was a multi-tasking type of guy,” Taylor said. “He played tight-end, full-back and in certain formations he was a half back. We felt like, because of his versatility, the offense kind of went through him.”
Taylor praised Benson’s skill and highlighted his subtle but effective leadership with his teammates. He also lamented replacing Benson’s talent.
He said, “You have some people who just lead by example. They do their job, and because they do their job, they enhance others. [Benson] is one of those types of leaders. It’s a bittersweet situation.”
Senior quarterback Eddie Battle described Benson as his “brother from a different mother.” He was not as concerned as Taylor about Benson’s impending commencement.
“I won’t miss him because I don’t think we’ll lose contact,” Battle said. “He’s one of my biggest supporters as far as my upcoming season being my last one. He’s constantly feeding me positive information about my shoulder injury and helped me keep external forces out of my head because those things I have no control over.”
This year Benson fulfilled his goal of joining the baseball team as a third baseman. He said he was happy to join the team even though he needed a break from the long road trips.
“I had to stop playing and get my work done, but hopefully I’ll be back on the field within the next few weeks,” Benson said.
Pitching coach Brett Richardson said he was disappointed that Benson couldn’t finish the season with the team.
“For a guy his size, he has pretty nimble feet,” Richardson said about Benson’s potential.
“He’s got a pretty good throwing arm, definitely has some power…but it’s just all of it right now is untapped because he hadn’t played in three or four years since high school and didn’t come out [for baseball] until the spring.”
Fellow third baseman and former football teammate Derrick Shaw appreciates Benson’s character, despite his short-lived position on the team.
“He’s definitely a good guy, has a great character and is an awesome leader,” Shaw said. “He’s a hard worker and does what it takes to get the job done. Even if he’s not on the field, he’s a great supporter and encourages the guys on the field. He makes it happen where it matters the most.”
For Benson, what matters most is a successful year – on the field and in the classroom — despite his unfinished baseball season.
He can always refer back to the inspiration he receives from the lyrics of Goapele’s song: “Closer to my dreams…I’m going higher and higher…I can almost reach.”