By Earl Bennett
Inside of a Riddell helmet there is this huge “WARNING” sticker. The sticker explains all the dangers of improperly using the helmet. For me, it was the last few words that really hit me after I was told by Wesley Woodyard that he was going to kill me during my freshman year when Kentucky played Vandy in Nashville.
Trash talking is one thing. Very typical in sports all around and no different in football. You hear the usual “You suck,” “Take your sorry ass to the sideline,” and “Your mom should be ashamed of your sorry ass” quotes all the time. Trash talk is a part of the game. However, when someone tells you that their plan is to kill you — that is a totally left-field statement, one I’ve only heard once in my life as a football player.
The final words on the Riddell WARNING sticker reads “IGNORING THIS WARNING MAY LEAD TO ANOTHER AND MORE SERIOUS OR FATAL BRAIN INJURY.” Immediately, when he told me “I’m going to kill you,” I thought about the warning sticker. I thought that he totally “IGNORED” the warning signs about improperly using the helmet.
The tension came from me decommitting from the University of Kentucky to play football at Vanderbilt. I had met Wesley on my visit there, and Keenan Burton, who played for the St. Louis Rams, was my host on that visit. The coaches from Kentucky were mad at me and the players had a little animosity toward me regarding my decision. Nevertheless, Wesley was furious and wanted nothing more than to decimate me from the earth.
Clearly his plan failed. That game is where I caught 5 touchdowns to tie the SEC record for touchdown catches in a game, but with every catch, “Im going to kill you” was in the back of my mind. No, the statement did not motivate me to play well. The statement rattled me and caused me to wonder if he had the opportunity to kill me, would he really do it?
Wesley and I are good friends now. We revisit this statement often and share a laugh as to how I was literally distraught from him telling me that. He did tackle me a lot. But thankfully none of them were ‘FATAL!”