When wide receiver Uriah LeMay wrapped up his high school football career at Butler in 2012, Benjamin, then a freshman, never thought he’d ever play again with his older brother.
Four years later, however, they’re doing just that.
The brothers are teammates again, this time with the Charlotte 49ers, who will open their college football season Thursday night at Louisville.
“It’s really cool,” said Benjamin LeMay, a 5-foot-9, 216-pound freshman running back. “There’s a lot of things we do together that a lot of brothers really can’t have.
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“That kind of bond that we have really makes us better as players, and as people, too. A lot of guys don’t have the bond that we have.”
Uriah, a 6-2, 210-pound redshirt junior, and Benjamin are among three sets of brothers on the 49ers’ roster this season. The others are running back Garrison Duncan and defensive lineman Zach Duncan, and defensive back Denzel Irvin and linebacker Darius Irvin.
“It’s a little unique,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “It’s been a lot of fun for us to be a part of.”
Unlike the Duncans and Irvins, however, the LeMays carry instant name recognition among Charlotte-area high school football fans, especially those who remember Butler’s championship-winning teams.
The LeMay brothers – Uriah, Benjamin and oldest brother Christian, who played at Georgia and Jacksonville State – were part of Bulldogs teams that won 4AA state titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
“It was always fun when we were back in high school, having that little bond, that chemistry,” Uriah LeMay said. “It really brought football to the center.”
Under a cloud at Georgia
Much like his older brother, Uriah was a four-star prospect, with more than 30 of the nation’s top college programs offering scholarships. He committed to Georgia in June 2012, just before beginning his final season at Butler, and redshirted his freshman year in Athens.
But Uriah left the next year under a cloud.
He was one of four Bulldogs players arrested on misdemeanor theft by deception charges in mid-March 2014, just before the start of spring practice. The charges were dropped after he completed a pre-trial intervention program.
“Personally, I came in there with the wrong mindset,” Uriah LeMay said. “Through all the trials and challenges I had there, it just developed me and grew me up as a person. At the end of the day, it pushed me to become the man I am today.”
Lambert said he had no problems bringing Uriah onboard, especially after talking with former Georgia strength and conditioning coach Joe Tereshinski Sr., the father of 49ers receivers coach Joe Tereshinski III.
“Joe T’s father said all the things I wanted to hear,” Lambert said. “I just felt really good about it after that conversation.
“We’ve all made mistakes, and he made one. But he’s owned up to it, we’ve moved on and he’s moved on. He’s done a nice job since he’s been here.”
Unlike the 49ers, other recruiters too late
While Uriah was a highly-recruited prospect in high school, Benjamin wasn’t as sought-after by college programs despite near-record statistics at Butler.
A four-year letterman with the Bulldogs, Benjamin rushed for 4,059 career yards and 74 touchdowns, and added 896 receiving yards. His rushing numbers are 11th-best in Mecklenburg County history, and his touchdowns are third best.
While Benjamin did draw interest from bigger programs by his senior year, they were all too late.
As a sophomore, the youngest of the LeMay brothers verbally committed to the one program that made him a scholarship offer, and made it official after his senior year – Charlotte.
“They really caught my attention from the jump,” Benjamin said of the 49ers, who started the program in 2012 and played their first season in 2013. “They’ve always stayed the same, kept their word about everything they told me. I always kept that in mind whenever anybody else tried to talk to me.
“It’s great to have this type of opportunity right in your backyard. A lot of kids really wish they could stay home and have this type of opportunity in Division I football, so I couldn’t pass that up.”
It also helped that Lambert wasn’t concerned about Benjamin’s height.
“Didn’t bother us,” Lambert said. “Running through holes and seeing things, and running through tackles doesn’t have a lot to do with height. What we saw on tape is bearing out – he’s a really good running back.”
The LeMays enter the 2016 season with stiff competition for playing time.
At wide receiver, Uriah – coming off a fractured collarbone he suffered seven games into the 2015 season, and ankle issues during the preseason workouts – is in a battle with returning starters Trent Bostick, Austin Duke and T.L. Ford II, and backups Juwan Foggie, Workpeh Kofa and Chris Montgomery.
It’s much the same for Benjamin at running back, with three-year rushing leader Kalif Phillips leading a deep group that includes converted quarterback Matt Johnson, Bradan Smith and two other freshmen – redshirt Akease Rankin and Robert Washington.
But while the LeMays are competing for playing time, they’re also competing against each other.
“I love it, honestly,” Uriah said. “We motivate each other during practices, and at the end of the day we try to compare. We’ve made it a competition to see which sibling can keep up with the other.”
Said Benjamin: “It pushes everybody harder, and makes sure we don’t slack off. When I see him working, then I know it’s time for me to start working. We motivate each other.”
Uriah also sees that competitive bond from other teammates, especially after the 49ers went 2-10 last season, their first in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Division I college football’s highest level.
“Just the camaraderie that we have here on our team now, it’s the same way at every position,” Uriah said. “It’s competition, but at the same time it’s family. We’re all competing, we’re all fighting, we all want to make plays, but at the end of the day, we want to win.”
2016 Charlotte 49ers schedule
September: 1, at Louisville, 7; 10, Elon, 6; 17, Eastern Michigan, 6; 24, at Temple, noon.
October: 1, Old Dominion, 6; 8, at Florida Atlantic, 3:30; 15, Florida International, 6; 22, at Marshall, 5:30.
November: 5, at Southern Mississippi, 3:30 p.m.; 12, Rice, 2; 19, Middle Tennessee, 2; 26, at Texas-San Antonio, 7.