Dawgman.com was fortunate to catch up with Benning’s father Aleki, a first sergeant in the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Division, after Benning publicly announced his choice in front of friends and family at Lakes High School.
With Benning being Aleki’s second son to play at Washington, he shared some insight into how he’s perceived the changes between the Steve Sarkisian regime and the new era brought on Montlake by now second-year Head Coach Chris Petersen.
It’s fair to say that the Potoae family was thinking anywhere but UW for a long time when it came to Benning’s eventual college choice, but Petersen’s personality, character, and the culture that’s now being instilled within the Husky Football program were all things that swayed the Potoaes back in UW’s corner. And Benning’s official visit to Montlake crystalized those changes and showed the family that something new and unique is going on. The visit simply blew them away.
On UW making up a lot of ground with Benning’s recruitment to UW: “Yes. With his experience with his brother (Sione), we sat him down and he had to give coach Petersen the same opportunity he gave Jim Mora and all the coaches he wanted to know. But he was looking at not even visiting (UW) because he knows so much because his brother was there and knows the University.
“But it was his visit, it was a must. In his heart, he wanted to be a Dawg, but his experience with his brother and what he went through with the last staff…I’m not going to go back to that, they are Trojans now…but he wanted to see what coach Petersen has got going on right now and it’s something special. I think the way he runs his staff and program is done with integrity and is honest. It sold him; this weekend is when he made the decision. That’s what sold him. He was looking at UCLA; he was looking at Oregon State too, closer to home.
“Home played a lot in his decision. He wanted to play for his state. I think it came down to, he wanted to stay and defend his state and play in his state.”
So was it really 180 degrees from any previous experience you may have had at UW, given your time watching Sione? - “He knew everything; the facilities, the dorms, everything. He’s been there. He wanted to see the people, and that’s what UW has - they have people that really care. He thinks that, he knows that, and they are going to take his game to the next level.
“But we made a promise to him; this decision was going to be his decision. Did we want him to stay home? Yes, we wanted him to stay home. Did we want him to go outside U-Dub? Yes we did. But it was my lesson to him; you make the decision that’s going to make you happy. It fits you in their system, you like the coaching and the mentoring that you’re going to get for the next four years. That last visit answered all his questions.”
So you think there’s a major change going on at UW right now? - “Yes. And I hope Benning going here as a four-star, and all these kids growing up in our state, they see the brand. The brand is coach Petersen and the program. Yes, it is about winning football games, but every kid in Washington should be able to grow up and want to wear that W. Hopefully they see this, the four-stars, five-stars staying in-state and look at U-Dub first before ever looking outside the state of Washington.
“When we went outside the state to do some other visits, I shook a lot of hands from kids from this state that are stellar players at other schools. But I think what’s starting up at Montlake right now is something special. I think it’s going to change…we’re that state that’s underrated compared to California, Texas, and all these big states. We’re underrated and we’ve got these hidden gems, these players - and that’s why coaches are running to it. They are seeing their tapes.”
So the success coach Petersen has had so far in keeping the top in-state players home made a big impression on Benning in the end? - “Yes. He wanted to stay and be a part of that first big class and hopefully it’s going to affect things the next four, five - however long the man is going to continue to be at UW…this is his plan, this is his vision, this is what he wants to do. Do you want to be a part of it?”
Benning Potoae Scout.com Profile
Aleki Potoae Talks About Son’s UW Commitment
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