Tammie Bennett wiped more than a few tears from her eyes on Monday.
She was surrounded by friends, family and coaches as her son, Jermel Bennett, signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Faulkner University.
The tears, of course, were happy ones. So were her words.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "It's everybody here. I think the coaches being there for him made a big difference."
Jermel Bennett's sly smile was planted across his face as he inked his way onto the NAIA team. That same smile hints at a mischievous nature that brought both pleasure and pain to the big defensive end. He credited his coaches for keeping him in line and making the Monday afternoon signing possible.
"I never had a father growing up, but I felt like I had one in my life because the coaches were my father figure," he said.
Even as a middle-schooler he showed a stubborn attitude.
"All my family played for Evans so they wanted me to play for Evans, too," he said with a grin. "I chose Lakeside, their biggest rival, just to make them mad."
Former Lakeside football coach Randy Hill, the only head football coach Jermel played under, spoke of a young eighth-grader trying to sneak onto the high school team.
"Everything he did was 100 percent - good and bad," Hill said. "He had a thin temper, but I think that helped him out on the football field."
Jermel cited another source as the reason his fiery temper turned into unbridled fury on the football field.
"The reason why I played with so much intensity was because I was playing for my mom every time I got out there," he said. "She was always in the stands."
Faulkner University, an NAIA school in Montgomery, Ala., is starting a football program for the first time this fall. Faulkner Offensive Coordinator Justin Crews was on hand Monday for the signing ceremony.
"We got his tape late in the process, but when we saw it we all said, 'this kid can play,'" Crews said. "We're looking to keep him at defensive end. With us being a startup program I think he'll have a lot of chances to play."
Jermel became the first Lakeside product since Chris Drayton in 2005 to make a football commitment.
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