Editor’s note: We originally published this story in our high school football preview in fall 2015. We’ve republished it given recent interest in Benny LeMay signing with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
By Ben Doster
Football is a way of life in the LeMay family, and youngest brother Benny LeMay, Butler’s starting running back, is the last of the trio to star for the Bulldogs, behind older brothers Uriah and Christian.
“That’s all we ever knew really,” LeMay said. “Basketball was kind of our sport before, but when everyone started getting established in football, that’s when it really started taking off, especially when Christian started.
“That’s our bonding time together – whenever we go to the backyard and throw the football around. Family is everything to me. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Older brothers, Christian (Georgia) and Uriah (Charlotte 49ers), took their talents to the next level, and Benny will do the same. He’ll follow Uriah to the gold rush 20 minutes up the road to join the Charlotte 49ers football program next fall. The decision keeps him close to home and his parents.
“It’s an up-and-coming school, just a lot of opportunity to have and I get to play with my brother and a lot of other teammates I used to play with,” LeMay said. “There’s too many positives to say no.” 4
However, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior still has unfinished business after a season-ending, 56-14 blowout losses to Mallard Creek in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state playoffs the last two years.
“I’m not much of verbal guy,” LeMay said. “I like to lead by example and by actions, but there comes a time where you have to be that guy, especially with the team we have, a lot of young guys on the team, a lot of inexperienced guys that don’t really know the role Butler has in Charlotte. Sometimes you got to take that in stride.
“Christian and Uriah were two great players. I’ll tell you that. They really taught me that role of leadership – being that guy on the field everybody looks to, and don’t ever let your emotions get in the way during the game. They just taught me to watch who you’re hanging around, a lot of life goals, a lot of life lessons on and off the field.”
Though he’s quiet and reserved, a strong-willed and resilient spirit resides inside LeMay, which manifests itself on the football field in a never-go-down style of running. His approach resembles the children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could.”
His “I think I can, I think I can” mentality keeps him moving like a train, trampling over defenses on the gridiron tracks.
And there have been times he could’ve easily given up.
During his first season as a starter, the Bulldogs trailed Mount Tabor 25-0 at the half. But he didn’t want to lose. Instead, he picked the heads up of his teammates and scored two touchdowns to lead a second half rally. Butler lost, 25-19, but LeMay brought that junkyard dog mentality of “fighting to the finish” to his team.
LeMay said that was when he realized he could be the go-to guy for the Bulldogs when they needed a big play, or someone to depend on.
The next week, he rushed for 315 yards, but had two touchdowns called back during a 49-32 loss at Richmond Senior. He didn’t that let stop him.
But Butler’s wins – many at the hands of LeMay – are many and define his career. The Bulldogs have gone 37-9 (17-3 Southwestern 4A), made three playoff appearances and won a state championship (2012) during his time.
LeMay, who is rated as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com, took off like a jet leaving the tarmac, amassing 1,565 yards and 24 touchdowns on 211 carries for an average of 7.4 yards per carry, and made 19 receptions for 210 yards and three touchdowns to make for an impressive stat-line last season.
“I have shifty hips, and real good feet,” LeMay said. “I’ve been working on my burst a lot lately, trying to break away for a long touchdown. I just got a low center of gravity, got a mindset of ‘I don’t want to go down.’ That really helps out in a running back’s mind.”
The person who inspires him the most though, and who has been his greatest cheerleader is his father, Stacy LeMay, who introduced him to football when he was 8 years old.
“He just said, ‘You need to get into some sports,’” LeMay said. “I was more of a basketball guy back in the day, but when I first played football, that’s when it hit.”
His father was the first to tell him he might have a future in football.
“He told me, ‘Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do anything, always keep your head up no matter what anybody says about you,’” LeMay said. “That’s when I told myself, if I really want to do this, I have to put the work in. It doesn’t come easy. He’s been a real good role model for me.”
Like football, family is important to LeMay. It’s why he’s staying close to home next year. If it weren’t for the LeMay family, Butler football wouldn’t be the same.
Even with his name recognition, though, LeMay doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He cares more about winning and overall team success.
“It’s not all about me,” LeMay said. “It’s about the team. That’s all that matters to me.”