It was late in the third quarter of the biggest game of the year. Altus had just cashed in a Sha’Quan French interception with a Taven Birdow 29-yard touchdown run.
Collinsville tried to answer back, moving the ball down the field methodically before setting up for another play at the 3-yard line, hoping it ended with six on the scoreboard.
They were just three yards away from scoring the game tying touchdown and they planned on going to their star player Levi Draper. Unfortunately for them, Jayden Benway played for the Bulldogs.
“It was a dream come true,” said Benway of his magical play. “I just jumped a slant route and picked it off. I got some really good blocks on the return and it was really cool to see all the Altus fans going crazy after I got into the end zone.”
Doing what he did on that play was nothing different than he had been doing all season long.
Benway had 15 interceptions his senior year and the 25th of his Bulldog career — a school record.
Now, Benway is taking his impressive athleticism to his father’s alma mater Northwestern Oklahoma State University where he will play at the free safety position.
Benway’s love for football can be attributed to his father — Altus football coach Jay Benway.
“My family is all about football,” Benway said. “Ever since I was about two or three, my dad was teaching me how to play catch and throw the football and it stuck.”
Benway’s father has been a coach for the Altus Bulldog football team for a very long time.
In fact, he is the only coach still on the staff from the 2001 state championship game against Carl Albert although current defensive coordinator Matt Terry was the team’s quarterback that season.
Benway plans to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad was my biggest influence because I grew up my whole life watching him coach the Altus Bulldogs,” Benway said. “He taught me everything I know about football and I’ve just tried to be as good as he was in high school and college football.”
Benway is majoring in education at Northwestern and plans to coach football once he graduates. It only makes sense because coaching is in his blood.
Benway finished off his spectacular high school career with the Mitch Windle Award, which recognizes the outstanding male athlete of the senior class, and a scholarship offer from NWOSU.
When he was not terrorizing his opponents on defense, he was lighting them up on offense with 992 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns on the ground and 711 yards passing with six touchdowns through the air.
It never mattered how much a player prepared or how he tried to stop Benway, doing so was nearly impossible.
For what he lacks in height as a safety, he makes up with raw athleticism that is hard for offenses to match no matter how tall their receivers are.
“Jayden is one of the most competitive players I have ever coached,” said Altus Bulldog football’s Head Coach Todd Vargas. “He absolutely refuses to lose. He is a one-of-a-kind player and his work ethic is unmatched.”
That is the advantage he held his entire high school career and that is what he carries with him to college.
Benway was more than a star at Altus — he was a leader and he will have little trouble making a name for himself as a Northwestern Ranger in Alva.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.