Deago Benson’s favorite team growing up was the Texas Longhorns. It wasn’t until he was a freshman in high school, however, that he learned he was related to a burnt orange legend.
As Benson sat with his family talking about football and the excitement surrounding his season at Midlothian High School, his grandmother joined the conversation.
“She was like, ‘You know your cousin played for Texas,’” Benson said. “And I was like, ‘My cousin?’ And she was like, ‘Cedric Benson.’”
Deago’s mind was blown. Cedric Benson was a running back etched in Texas football lore. He had led Midland Lee to three-straight state championships before starring at the University of Texas from 2001-04. After posting 5,540 career rushing yards, good for second all-time in the program, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the fourth overall selection in the 2005 Draft and played eight seasons in the NFL.
Deago never got to meet Cedric before his untimely death from a motorcycle accident in August 2019, but now as a senior running back at Midlothian, he wants to carry on the Benson legacy.
“He did it the right way,” Benson said. “I just want to keep his name alive.”
Benson may be Midlothian’s bruising running back now, but when he first learned he was related to Cedric Benson he pictured himself blossoming into a linebacker.
He played on the defensive side of the ball during his freshman season. It wasn’t until the COVID year during his sophomore campaign that his coach moved him to running back. Benson admits that he hated it at first, but he decided to trust the process as a sophomore on varsity.
“I was just thinking, ‘Instead of getting hit, run through them or make them miss. Don’t get hit,’” Benson said. “I treat it as sharks and minnows in a way. Just don’t get tagged.”
That strategy worked wonders for Benson. After racking up 800 yards rushing in his first varsity season, Benson morphed into a star during his junior year. The 6-foot-tall, 200-pound back rumbled for over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns as Midlothian rallied from a 2–3 start to reach the third round of the playoffs.
The three-star rising senior committed to Washington State earlier this month. While the Cougars are known for their aerial attack, Benson likes the idea of getting more chances to line up in the slot. He says Washington State’s offense provides him with ample mismatch opportunities where he can line up against a down safety or a linebacker and find open grass.
“I’m a running back, but I can play receiver and I can line up in the slot,” Benson said. “So with their Air Raid offense, they can get me the ball in different ways. I don’t have to be one-dimensional. I can use all of my talents.”
Before he moves north to serve as a Swiss Army knife, Benson has one more season in Midlothian’s ground and pound offensive attack. He describes his team playing with a hard-nosed style as the Panthers try to make their opponent tap out.
That’s because Midlothian has two dynamic running backs. While Benson describes himself as a lifted truck with a little bit of flash that gets the job done, he says fellow senior Jordon Richburg is a Ferrari with top-end speed. They both earned 4-5A DI All-District selections last season leading a young varsity team trying to break in a first-year starting quarterback.
“We’re both so passionate, so on that fourth and one I’m like, ‘I want the ball.’ And he’s like, ‘No, I want the ball,’” Benson said. “It’s good because I have somebody to compete against and I never get lazy and feel like I’ve arrived because I know he’s right there and he’s working just as hard.”
Ahead of his final season for the Panthers, Benson has clear-cut goals in mind. He wants over 1,000 yards rushing, over 500 receiving and a district championship. In the process, he hopes to carry on the Benson legacy his cousin started.
“I just want to get that flame back under the name again,” Benson said.
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