Stadium to carry name of ex-coach
LAND O' LAKES - For more than 30 years, Coach John Benedetto stood on the sidelines at Land O' Lakes High football games, instructing his players in the ways of the gridiron. Many of them say the lessons he taught on the field also prepared them to succeed in life. "I'm one of those students that Coach Benedetto truly impacted, not just on the field but off the field," said Drew Weatherford, a former quarterback at Land O' Lakes High who went on to play for Florida State University. Last week, after an outpouring of support from the community, the Pasco County School Board voted to honor Benedetto by naming the high school's stadium for him.The school's team name is the Gators and the stadium has been known as "The Swamp." Weatherford and others lobbied on behalf of the coach before the vote, saying that he influenced thousands of students through the years as a classroom teacher and a coach. "The quality that stood out and stands out with John is he is a leader and models leadership to young people," said Max Ramos, a former Land O' Lakes High principal. Kenny Blankenship, who played for Benedetto in the 1970s and went on to become a teacher at Land O' Lakes High, said Benedetto taught him how to catch a football, but also a lot more. Blankenship said the coach taught his players "leadership, discipline, teamwork and a competitive focus," traits that they took from the field into other areas of their lives. Benedetto said the board's decision, and the people who spoke on his behalf, "made me a very, very happy man." The board's vote drew a standing ovation from the packed meeting room, but the naming of the stadium nearly was delayed. Board Vice Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong wanted to hold off until the next board meeting. Armstrong said she had no problem naming the stadium for Benedetto, but wanted to make sure others in the community had ample time to air their views. Other board members declined to support postponing action. Board member Allen Altman said the Benedetto supporters came to a previous board meeting a few months ago, so in effect the issue already had come before the board twice.
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