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Richard Benjamin had it all planned out.
He went to University Mall on Tuesday to buy a red tie and red vest and white shirt and white pants. He had a new Louisville Cardinals cap. He even spent a few minutes the night before thinking about what he was going to say.
Benjamin even expected tears.
The Tampa Bay Tech standout got a little red-eyed before he could sign his letter of intent with Louisville on Wednesday, choking up as he recounted his difficult journey to national signing day.
“I knew I was going to cry,” he said, tears still on his cheeks. “I’ve been blessed so much. I wanted people to know.”
Benjamin was joined at the ceremony by Titans teammates Antonio Guerad, a 6-foot-4 and 255-pound defensive lineman bound for Central Florida, and JT Thompkins, a 5-9, 180-pound running back who will attend Bethune Cookman.
The talented trio led traditional doormat Tampa Bay Tech to a 7-4 season, which ended in the first-round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Benjamin transferred to Tampa Bay Tech from Middleton before his senior year, returning to the school where he started his prep career.
He made up for lost time, contributing all over the field for the Titans. Benjamin rushed for 718 yards and six touchdowns, caught 35 passes for 509 yards and five touchdowns, and tallied 26 tackles and four interceptions.
Benjamin, however, burst into tears Wednesday before his family members, friends and teammates.
As he discussed growing up as the child of a single mother, Benjamin slowed a minute and dropped his head. When he lifted it again, he was crying.
“I’ve come a long way,” he said. “I grew up without a father.”
Benjamin’s father was killed in a drive-by shooting in October 2002, his mother Deborah Williams said.
“He never really knew his father,” she said. “But this has been a blessing. He’s been working hard at this since he was a little boy and it’s paid off.”