MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
For a free spirit like Bennie Coney, the personalities had to mesh when picking a college.
The Plant City senior quarterback is a self-proclaimed jokester. He likes to laugh and have fun. And when he came back from a visit to Cincinnati last week, he had a revelation.
"I realized they were my type of guys," Coney said.
On Monday morning, Coney, arguably Hillsborough County's top quarterback recruit, committed to play for the Bearcats.
"The coaches and the players were great," Coney said. "When I got there, it just felt like home. The coaches were great. They showed you it's not all about football and that they care for you as a person."
While visiting Cincinnati, Coney said he hung out with a pair of former bay area standouts who are incoming freshmen -- ex-Jefferson receiver Chris Moore and ex-Land O' Lakes quarterback Stevie Weatherford.
"They're Tampa guys, so I know them from playing them," Coney said. "They said they wouldn't change a thing. They love it up there. On my time up there, I was loving it, too. The guys there, they like to laugh a lot. They like to joke around a bit. That's what caught my eye because I'm a jokester. It's serious but it's not all business. They like to laugh and enjoy themselves."
Coney, who had about 25 Division I-A offers, also visited Virginia Tech, his No. 2 school, this summer, as well as Miami and USF, but decided to head north.
The state's 44th-ranked recruit and the No. 7-best dual-threat quarterback recruit in the nation according to Rivals.com, Coney (6-3, 210 pounds) threw for 1,600 yards in a promising sophomore season, but was dismissed by Raiders coach Wayne Ward last October for an unspecified violation. He has since returned to the team and remains in good standing.
Coney said the opportunity to play early was a key factor in choosing the Bearcats. He plans on graduating in December and hopes to enroll at Cincinnati for the spring semester so he can participate in spring drills and compete for playing time as a true freshman.
Among Coney's competition will be Weatherford -- and he has no problem with that.
"None of that bothers me," he said with a chuckle. "I like to compete. That's what I do. Let the best man win, you know?"
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)