CARLSBAD — It wasn’t long after he’d found out that he was to be the newest inductee into the Chargers Hall of Fame that Darren Bennett, the Chargers most distinguished punter, was back on the field at La Costa Canyon High School doing what his former NFL teammates knew him for best — sharing. “This is my favorite three hours a day,” Bennett said during Tuesday afternoon’s Mavericks’ football practice.
For the past three years, Bennett, a Pro Bowler and member of the NFL’s all-Decade team of the ‘90s, has been coaching special teams at the school where his sons Tom and Will attend. Tom is a kicker on the junior varsity team and Will helps to coach the special teams.
Bennett is eager to share all of his experiences, knowledge and advice with the young athletes.
Codey Wuthrich, one of the Maverick’s varsity kickers, said that it was a real privilege to be mentored by Bennett. “Every time I go to a camp or some sort of event, I tell them that I’ve been training with Bennett and everybody is just amazed at how privileged that I’m out here training with him every day.”
Special teams kicker and punter Adam Allmaras, a senior at La Costa Canyon, has spent three years learning from Bennett. “It’s been better than anything else,” Allmaras said. “He’s super nice, first of all, and I mean, it’s a real privilege because he’s such a great punter, and then also, no one else is being taught by a professional punter in the county, it’s the most beneficial thing for us.”
Bennett’s mentoring extends beyond La Costa. The Carlsbad resident has taken a countless number of up-and-coming and professional punters under his wing, going so far as to take them into his home where his wife Rosemary would cook them meals.
We’re passing the knowledge on, Bennett said. “That’s a very Australian thing. Billy Ray Smith said to me once, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘You don’t give them anything. You hold on to that job as long as you can.’ I go, ‘Mate, sometimes you know that horse is going to buck you off.’
“As an Australian, we’re taught to pass our knowledge on to the young guys and try to have the young body with a bit of the older mind go and do better.”
From Australia to San Diego, Bennett, the Aussie-rule footballer-turned-American football punter never imagined so many successes and honors would come to him from playing a game. When he tried out for the Chargers back in the early ‘90s, the only thing he thought he was going to get was a t-shirt, a free football and a look around an NFL stadium, he said.
“The first punt in the NFL was exciting and then every other punt was exciting,” he said. “You don’t do it thinking that you may make the hall of fame. And then the other thing is,” he said, “I don’t know that there’s many punters in the team hall of fames around the NFL. It’s not usually an accolade that someone who punts, gets.”
Allmaras was one of the fans to vote Bennett into the team’s Hall of Fame. It was the first time ever that the Chargers had allowed fans to select the inductee.
As for Bennett’s election into the Chargers Hall of Fame: “I think it’s incredible,” Wuthrich said. “I’m very proud and honored to be one of his students.”