There are times – and they’re more frequent now than a year ago – when everything slows down for running back Benny LeMay.
When that happens, he sees the Charlotte 49ers’ offensive linemen open holes, defenders make their moves, and he sees it at a speed he can handle.
The game is slowing down for Benny LeMay, and it showed last Saturday when he rushed for a career-high 156 yards. His effort wore down N.C. A&T’s defense as the 49ers rallied in the second half before losing 35-31.
LeMay and the 49ers (0-3) will try again for their first victory this season at 6 p.m. Saturday, when they host Georgia State (0-2) at Richardson Stadium.
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“This has been a gradual process,” LeMay, a sophomore from Butler High, says of his college football experience. “The college level is so different from high school – so much faster. It took some time to learn that.”
LeMay – certainly you know the name.
Oldest brother Christian led Butler to state titles, signed with Georgia, struggled for starting time and then transferred to Jacksonville State, where he led the Gamecocks to the FCS playoffs.
Next was Uriah, a standout wide receiver at Butler who also went to Georgia, then left for the 49ers. He is a senior wide receiver with Charlotte.
Benny chose a different means of attack – running back. He gained more than 4,500 yards and scored 74 touchdowns in his Butler career. A three-star recruit, he chose to stay at home and sign with Charlotte.
“I was recruited by other schools, but Charlotte was the first one to recruit me,” says LeMay, who is 5-foot-9 and 211 pounds. “They were really genuine, and I appreciated that. Besides, I was able to stay at home, see my mom and go to my church on Sundays.”
He had his moments as a freshman, rushing for 79 yards against Elon, playing in nine games and making one start. But he was still learning.
“It took a while for me to get used to the speed of the college game,” he says. “And there were other things to learn.”
In high school, LeMay wasn’t asked to block as much as in college. Playing behind 49ers rushing record-holder Kalif Phillips, LeMay says he learned a lot about blocking.
“People don’t realize how well he could block,” LeMay says of Phillips. “That was something I had to learn.”
But LeMay says he worked hard and gradually learned.
He also has quite a support system from his Butler High “family.” LeMay says he stays in close touch with Bulldogs coach Brian Hales and high school teammates such as Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, North Carolina wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams (who played quarterback at Butler), Elon freshman quarterback Davis Cheek and Appalachian State defensive back Clifton Duck.
All are starters, and Ferguson outplayed Heisman candidate Josh Rosen in a win against UCLA last Saturday.
Also, LeMay says he gets support from his apartment roommate, Uriah.
“He and I pick each other up when we need it,” LeMay says. “It’s nice to be able to room with your brother.”
Even Christian, now working with Under Armour in Georgia, occasionally visits. He was there for Benny’s big game last Saturday.
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert says he believes performances like last week can become a regular occurrence.
“I feel we can do that every week,” Lambert says. “We really started to wear them (N.C. A&T) down. Our offensive line opened big holes and Benny had a big game.”
LeMay also is quick to praise the offensive line and downplays his role in the game.
“Someone had to make some plays, and it happened to be me,” he says. “I still have more to learn, but it’s falling in place now.”
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle