- August 26, 2021
Windermere Preparatory School football players spend their seasons learning about the importance of the word “How.”
“What we try to do is, in terms of Xs and Os, I always tell them that matters less,” head football coach Brian Simmons said. “What you do matters less than how you do it. So, I always tell them to concentrate in how we are doing things, how we are playing … with (our) energy, with (our) enthusiasm, with (our) toughness, it’s way more important than what play we run and, how (my players) are willing to accept adversity and challenges … on the football field, that tells me a lot about how (they) would do the same in life, as a person.”
Not only do the Lakers learn about how to act and react to diverse situations but also how to play multiple positions on the football field.
“Every guy has to learn multiple positions,” Simmons said. “I teach them that we’ve got to learn how to play football and (not to) worry about positions. (They have to) worry about how to play, because if they can’t tackle, if they can’t block, if they can’t get off of blocks, it doesn’t matter what positions they play, and that is the essence of playing football.”
A great example of becoming a diverse player is linebacker and running back Jackson Bennett, who has been a part of the varsity team at Windermere Prep for all four years of high school.
“This is my favorite part of the year every single year,” he said of football season.
Bennett, 17, moved to Orlando the summer before he started seventh grade and has been playing football since he was 4 years old. His dad, Brooks, played in college at Shepherd University. Having football around him since an early age inspired Jackson to immerse himself in the sport.
“It’s something that I love and something I look forward to (every year),” Bennett said. “It’s just a part of my life.”
Bennett saw a huge growth in his athletic performance on the football field during his last season with the Lakers. He broke several school records this year, including points scored in a game (42 during the game against Trinity Prep); touchdowns scored in a game (seven against Trinity Prep); receiving touchdowns in (five against Trinity Prep); and total yards (347 against Trinity Prep).
“We’ve had a really good year so far running the ball, and part of it is because we got a couple of new guys who are playing the offensive line and they’ve been of great help to me,” he said.
During the summer, Bennett spent his days working with the Lakers defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator Andre Martin, who helped him improve his speed and agility. However, Bennett is still looking forward to improving on a daily basis.
“Something specific I would say (for me to improve) is my lateral speed,” he said. “That’s something that I’m working on myself, and also my strength, because I can always be stronger and bigger.”
At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, Bennett surprises opponents on the football field when he plays in the running back position.
“Something unique to my play style is that I’m pretty big for my position I would say, because of how much I weigh,” he said. “What I think helps me is that people and coaches this year have told me that I’m deceivingly fast when they see my size. They don’t necessarily think I’m fast, so I’m able to catch them off-guard.”
Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson is Bennett’s role model when it comes to perseverance and determination.
“Most of what I’ve implemented of him in myself is his work ethic, because he was a quarterback in college, and everybody said he wasn’t going to be as successful quarterback in the NFL,” Bennett said. “(But) he believed that was his position, that’s what he wanted to do, and now he’s one of the best in the league.”
Simmons has been coaching Bennett for all his years in the varsity football team.
“It’s been the same since he’s been a ninth-grader,” Simmons said. “In the offense, defense, he’s done a great job. He plays wherever you need him to play — linebacker, safety, running back. … We asked him to punt (too), and he did that for us. He’s always asking, ‘Coach, can I do that? Can I do this?’ He won’t complain because you are asking him to do something. He’s always looking for ways to play more and do more plays for the team.”
This has been the first year Bennett has not gotten injured during the season, so he’s looking forward to ending his last high school season on a high note. Bennett is committed to Brown University to further his academic and athletic abilities and hopefully, one day, fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.
“That’s my dream job,” he said.
The Lakers will play their last game of the season against The First Academy Royals Friday, Nov. 4, at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park.