I recently got the chance to interview one of the most genuine athletes and people I know in the man himself, Benton Washington. Benton is a fellow graduate of the Air Force Academy and is now also an officer in the Air Force, living out in South Carolina for his first assignment. When he wasn’t running up and down the gridiron as a four-year member of the Academy’s football program, Benton was hanging with friends, hitting the books, having as much fun as he could while at a military college, and overall just doing his thing. He is a man of faith, an ambassador of sport, and has all the right attributes to be called an EVERYlete!
We went right ahead with the interview, so here you go!
*R = Robbie
*B = Benton
R: So Benton, growing up as a Georgia native, who would you say were the most instrumental sports role models that you had, and are they still role models for you today?
B: Growing up as a Georgia native, my teams typically fell short of their expectations…So the most instrumental role models of mine during the time were (and still are today) Tom Brady and Kawhi Leonard.
Tom Brady, in my opinion, is the model of consistency and success regardless of his circumstances. The dude just seems to find a way to win year in and year out no matter what the situation is. His drive to keep going is something I feel like everyone can appreciate and learn from.
Kawhi Leonard is the silent killer. He’s not one that wants to bring any attention to himselfbut relentlessly goes about being one of, if not, the best two-way player inthe league. Regardless of his success, he continues to remain humble and trueto himself (in my opinion).
R: C’mon B! The Falcons aren’t that bad. Didn’t they almost win the Super Bowl not too long ago? (hahah) Anyway…I 100% get that you picked Brady. Love him or hate him, he wins championships. But Kawhi is an interesting pick. So he’s still your guy even with all that went down last year when he left the Spurs? [In an interesting move, Kawhi Leonard sat out for the entirety of last season with the Spurs, and then ultimately got himself traded to the Toronto Raptors. Spurs fans weren’t happy, and still aren’t.]
B: Yeah…No comment on my Falcons.
See, that’s tough man. I still believe so. I’m not sure what actually went down in San Antonio (it’s none of my business at the end of the day), but I think he went about things respectfully. I don’t think anyone should be anywhere doing anything that doesn’t make them happy. Also, don’t be surprised if the Raptors win it all!
R: I guess we’ll see about Toronto hahah. Let’s talk your sports, though. Was there anything that drove you to ultimately pursue football as your sport instead of something else?
B: Well…I got cut from basketball in 7th grade [laughs to myself], and never grew to truly love the open 400 meter dash, so football was the easy decision for me. Being a part of a big team, the complexity of the game, the atmosphere of game day…It all just felt natural to me from the first time I played.
R: USAFA Falcons fans know you as one of the many great running backs to have come through the Air Force Academy and play for the Falcons. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to how you ended up wearing Air Force white and blue?
B: Robbie. Stop. Please. They almost stopped traveling me my senior year to get ready for the “future.” 😂 Anyways lol, my journey to the Falcons ultimately came down to having a secure future and playing at the D1 level, on top of not having that many offers in the first place. Nonetheless, I’m thankful for the experience and all the people I met at the Academy. S/O to all my Bolt bros, 18ers, and everyone else who embraced me!
R: Be real, Benton. I saw you play over the past few years while we were in school. Whenever you were on the field, whether that was on offense or special teams, you brought an energy that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. And you are one of the better bigger backs that I’ve watched in terms of getting to the hole (or making your own) and giving good blocks for your guys. You’re telling me that’s not noteworthy? You’re too humble!
B: Wow, that means a lot man. I’d like to think I was a good teammate at the end of the day. I learned that was the most important goal by my junior year. Obviously, there’s things I could’ve been better at, but I have no regrets. Blessed beyond belief.
R: And you have no reason to have any regrets; you were a baller. And speaking of blessings, anyone who knows you or has seen you play knows very well of your athletic ability and IQ on the football field throughout your career. If you had to pick a couple of your most dangerous abilities on the field, what would they be?
B: You’re a very encouraging man. I appreciate it, my guy. We need more people like you. But my greatest ability was definitely my speed and IQ. Speed came naturally from running track. IQ-wise, I always tried to learn and understand the game throughout my time playing. If IQ doesn’t count, I’d say my strength gave me somewhat of an edge due to my size.
R: IQ most definitely counts, and you could see it in the way you played, and of course, by being a cadet at the Academy. To anyone that doesn’t know the struggle of being a cadet-athlete at USAFA, would you mind telling us of the trials and struggles of playing football and being a cadet? How did you find the balance between practicing, lifting, watching film, doing recovery, going over plays, and everything that has to do with football ON TOP of the academic rigors of the Academy and staying in-line with the military training that cadets are required to do?
B: Let’s think about some of the struggles…Waiting for the day you can get taped up in the training room; Coach Getty staring you in your soul and asking if it’s a hobby or lifestyle every day in the weight room; trying to figure out what Coach Calhoun is talking about in his huddles after practice (I think most of us are still trying to do that…); figuring out how to get out of spring ball and looking for someone who has “CAC-cess” [basically student-ID access to the gates leading to the dorms so you don’t have to make the long walk up] after practice…
Nah I’m just playing.Mostly. Hahah. 😉
Honestly, some ofthe toughest things I’d say were the minimal sleep due to the academic rigors,limited food options at the dining hall, and making sure to stay involved inthe squadron [all the cadets are divided up into 40squadrons], on top ofholding it down every day at practice.
To find thatbalance, a lot of it was trial and error and looking for reasons tosmile/laugh. Eventually, you find a routine that works. It’s easy to stress outduring the time at the Academy, so it’s important to keep a vision of how faryou’ve come and where you’re going as well as surrounding yourself with genuinepeople that have your best interest in mind. That way you have a constantreminder to know all your trials/struggles are sacrifices for a bettertomorrow. Once you realize it’s all temporary, it’s easier to have fun and keepgoing. Still hard, but it makes it easier, and you embrace the challenges a bitmore.
R: Which leads us to the fact that you’re onto new challenges. You are a retired Falcon now and have commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, congratulations by the way! In this transition period of your life from student-athlete to officer-athlete, what were/are the most challenging aspects of not playing on a D-1 football team? What are the easiest parts?
B: Appreciate that boss. You too! Looking forward to hanging with you again. For me, the challenging aspect is figuring out who you are outside of a D-1 “EVERYlete” and where to put your time.
The easiest part is the time itself and getting to actually rest. Youwake up a little happier knowing you paid your dues and are moving on to biggerand better.
R: Do you enjoy this stage of your life more than the last in terms of competitive play? What kinds of things are you doing in your life now to continue being an EVERYlete?
B: YES, I’m full of joy man! That’s not because of finishing football either. It’s more so because I’m constantly learning and challenging myself in life to be the best version of myself (long way to go but I’ll get there, God willing ✝️).
I am being more mindful of what I put in my body (I have a bad sweet tooth so it gets hard lol). I’m also reading/studying every day! I’m not gonna lie man; it gets hard. But that’s why you find a purpose to keep going.
For staying active,I start every morning (Sun-Fri) with a workout. The workout begins with cardiowhich is either intervals on the treadmill or work on the Stairmaster. Fromthere, I do 2 sets of upper or lower body lifts depending on the day. Some ofthose lifts include hang cleans, power shrugs, dumbbell military press, frontsquat, etc. Then, I finish with core work which could be anywhere fromcrunches, planks, Russians twists, etc. I’m also putting up shots and playingpickup basketball games from time to time because when I figure this basketballthing out, it’s over for everybody. 😬
R: So how important are those types of things like playing sports and staying active with exercise in maintaining a balanced lifestyle?
B: They’re very important! Staying active maintains your energy. You want to be able to compete at a higher level longer than your opponents. Everyone times out at some point, but you want to make sure you’re the last person to do that. It also keeps your mind sharp and has been a good way to relieve stress.
R: What would you say are the most important parts about being an ambassador of sport? When I ask this, I’m trying to get at what you think are the vital things that a person in your position needs to do in order to be a good teammate, hard worker, and good role model to everyone watching you.
B: The most important part, in my opinion, is to remain humble and put the team before yourself. That doesn’t mean to not be you and have fun.
I just believe it’s important to remember the people God put in your path to get you where you are, their sacrifices, etc. At the end of the day man, all the wins, losses, trophies and awards are all temporary. Those people, teammates, coaches, fans and the relationships you build with them in sports are forever. Once you figure that out, I believe being a good teammate, working hard and being a good role model comes naturally.
R: So Benton, what do you personally think makes up an “EVERYlete”?
B: I believe an EVERYlete is someone who sacrifices themselves for the team. In whatever sport it may be, an EVERYlete strives to be the best version of themselves while uplifting and pushing their teammates to be the best versions of themselves every day. An EVERYlete is never satisfied!
R: Final question for you Benton. Some of your critics say that you don’t have the best hands. What do you have to say to them on this controversial topic?
B: Loooooooooool this made my day. Tell them I love them!