Although John Benedetto will be remembered as an old-school coach who cared deeply for his players, his former players and friends still laugh about a silly quirk the former Land O’Lakes coach showed at the end of the day.
“The end of most practices, when we were all worn out doing sprints, he’d do something called the key trick,” former Gators lineman Ross Hughes recalled.
“It was usually some juggling act with them, or he’d try to throw them over his shoulder and catch them behind his back. Normally it was a complete failure but it would get our spirits up after a long day. …Every time he broke out the keys, everyone was laughing.”
And some of them still are.
Three of Jim Cannon’s sons — Joey, Jacob and Jackson — played for Benedetto. The key trick remains a constant thread across generations.
“There is still hardly an evening at the dinner table that goes by that we don’t talk about coach B and his key trick at practice,” Cannon said. “Still brings a smile. He will be missed and remembered fondly.”
“It’s just hard to believe. I still have a hard time believing it. …Land O’Lakes was kind of a special place, and he was a part of that. You just always felt welcome.” — longtime Gators baseball coach Calvin Baisley, who first met Benedetto as a college intern in 1979
“As a coach to my brothers and me, coach Benedetto taught us lessons on the football field that have made a lasting impact on all of our lives. I am forever grateful to have called him a coach, a mentor and a friend. We will miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” — House Speaker Will Weatherford
“He cared.” — Tom Carter, who played for Benedetto beginning in 1979 and spent more than two decades as an assistant coach
“He was the greatest. From my perspective, he was a great father. Somebody that I just always loved and looked up to. … He was a great teacher and coach. He was just such an honorable man. He affected so many lives in a positive way.” – his son, Giovanni Benedetto
“My heart is heavy and my sincere prayers go out to the Benedetto family. Rest In Peace COACH!!!” — Zephyrhills coach Reggie Roberts, via Twitter
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Benedetto family …He will be greatly missed.” — Hudson coach Mark Kantor, via Twitter
Photo: John Benedetto with one (Joe) of the many Weatherfords he coached.