BOCA RATON – A couple of defensive walk-ons with football pedigrees grabbed the attention of FAU’s new coaching staff this spring and may have earned playing time this fall.
Spending much of the spring as a second teamer, redshirt freshman safety Jordan Helm intercepted a pass at FAU’s public spring practice at Carter Park. Jordan Helm knows that walk-ons can make an impact on a football team. His brother, Grant Helm, also played for the Owls, walking on and earning a scholarship after his first year. Grant played safety before becoming a graduate assistant coach at FAU.
Jordan understands that a new coaching staff offers a fresh opportunity to impress.
“Their goal is to win, so they’re going to play the best players no matter what,” he said.
Helm elected to attend FAU in part because he earned academic scholarships. He also was not impressed by football offers coming out of high school.
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Anthony Bennett also worked his way onto the second team, impressing coach Lane Kiffin with his work ethic from the moment spring football started.
For five weeks, Kiffin said he watched Bennett, “Really try hard, really made a bunch of plays and has earned the right to play a lot.”
Bennett, a South Florida native from Cypress Bay High School shakes the stereotype of the average walk on. Like Helm, Bennett has football in his blood. Bennett’s father, Charles Bennett, played for the Bears, Cowboys, and Dolphins. His uncle Tony Bennett played for the Colts and Green Bay, and his cousin Michael Bennett for the Vikings.
One of Bennett’s defensive line mate, redshirt senior defensive end Haiden Nagel, understands what it’s like to take advantage of the opportunity to improve himself. A former walk-on, Nagel earned a scholarship last season, making him an excellent mentor for Bennett.
Nagel sees in Bennett the same drive.
“He definitely had the same attributes I had as a walk on,” Nagel said. “He’s always trying to work on his skills. He’s always adding more tools to his tool box.”
With a plethora of injuries at linebackers, walk-ons Hosea Barnwell and Jesse Howanitz worked their way onto the spring two-deep and will likely get a shot to show they deserve playing time in the fall, even with Azeez Al-Shaair, Khantrell Burden and newcomer Carson Lydon on the field.