Aug 31, 2013
The progression toward perfection is a slow and often unpredictable process. It consists of countless ups and downs, combined with plenty of trials and triumphs. In the end, the odds of even reaching such a desired ideal are slim to none, causing some to relinquish the fight before it even begins.
However, junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett is not one to cower from a challenge. As the son of two graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the concept of perfection was instilled in him at an early age.
“They raised me to be respectful and logical,” Bennett said. “My parents did a great job in the way they brought me up, strict yet very loving. They knew how to drive me and teach me to expect perfection, so much so it bothers me when I’m not at the top level.”
For much of last season, Bennett was limited in his ability to reach his desired pinnacle of performance. A lingering groin injury kept him sidelined four games and held to 11 tackles in the final eight games of the season. The numbers fell short of the initial expectations many placed on the rising sophomore, who ranked second on the team with three quarterback sacks as a true freshman.
For Bennett, the individual statistics and anticipation of others was far from his greatest concern. His unease centered on not performing to perfection, not on behalf of himself but his teammates.
“The biggest thing for me is always I want us to win as a team,” Bennett said. “I’ll do whatever the coaches need from me. If I get two tackles a game or 12 tackles a game I’m fine with it as long as we win, I’m doing my job and doing a good job at it.”
Now beginning his junior campaign, Bennett feels he is in peak condition both physically and mentally. A sentiment the Centerville, Ohio, native credits primarily to his previously restraining injury.
“The rehab for the injury was really to strengthen the muscles, so I’m a lot stronger now,” Bennett said. “Mentally, it was a big test last year to work through the winter, spring and summer offseason, then get knocked down like that in camp.
“I had to lean a lot on my teammates. I came back mentally strong toward the end of last season, but this year I know I can really make a difference and lead a little bit.”
The leadership of Bennett is a strong attribute the Buckeye defense will rely on heavily this season. With four new starters on the defensive line alone, the guidance of returners, such as Bennett, could play a major role in the overall team’s chase for perfection.
“At this level of college football the expectations of perfection are exciting,” Bennett said. “You’re not worried about it like, ‘Oh crap, now people want us to go 14-0.’ We want and expect that for ourselves as a team. It’s an exciting position to be in.”
Bennett as well as anyone understands the daunting objective of perfection, along with the unlikelihood of achieving such a feat.
“Obviously you can’t fully reach perfection, but I believe if you set it in your goals then you can get closer to it than most people,” Bennett said.
Entering the ring, it is clear the Buckeyes are ready to tackle lofty expectations and strike toward even the most demanding of goals. As for Bennett, he is ready for battle as well. After all, it’s what he was raised to do.