Reporter Jim Owczarski talked to Benet Academy athletic director Gary Goforth, who retired as head football coach after the 2009 season. Goforth coached new Chicago Bears quarterback Dan LeFevour during his time at Benet.
Upon being drafted by the Bears in the sixth round Saturday, LeFevour joins Steve Baumgartner (Benet class of 1969) as the second Redwing with a chance to play in the NFL. The program's football history dates back to 1949 as St. Procopius (the school became Benet Academy in 1967) and it is believed that heading into this draft Baumgartner is the school's only alumnus to play in the NFL.
Baumgartner was drafted out of Purdue 51st overall by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 1973 draft. He would eventually be traded to the Houston Oilers midway through the 1977 season. He retired after the 1979 season at the age of 28. Baumgartner started 27 of his 95 career games.
He was drafted ahead of such notables as Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, 1977 Super Bowl MVP & Defense Player of the Year Harvey Martin and former Chicago Bears head coach Dick Jauron.
LeFevour would be the first Benet player who played under Gary Goforth to be drafted into the NFL.
Q: Are you surprised he'll be drafted into the NFL?
A: The college success made it a little less surprising, what he was able to do in his four years of actual playing time. You look at physical attributes in terms of size and weight, good speed for a quarterback. You never know about arm strength, you never know about how they understand the game. You know, (Dan) Marino - I look back at all the guys who were fifth-round draft choices and Dan Marino was one of them. You never know where people are going to go and what people look for and sometimes it's better to be drafted in the later rounds because the pressure is not on to succeed immediately. The only difference is you've got the huge contract in the first couple rounds. But you've still got to earn it; you've still got to play when you get there. I knew he could be good at the college level. How good? You never know.
Q: What do you remember about his recruitment to CMU, which ran a spread offense even though Benet ran the double-wing?
A: I look back at Kent Graham when he was at Wheaton North. I don't think they threw more than eight passes, maybe 10 passes a game at Wheaton North, and here's a guy that ends up at Ohio State and ends up in the NFL for a long time.
You want to be able to have a nice passing offense - we didn't really have a lot of speed receivers, we had some good receivers when he was playing that could catch the ball, run good routes, but not a lot of kids that could stretch the field for us at that time. We had a good core of running backs and the guy we brought in to run the offense was comfortable running the double slot, double-wing. We needed to put something together that would get us moving and it did, it worked for us. When we had to throw the ball, we threw the ball.
Dan's always been competitive. I think in his mind he's probably saying I'm going to do what people say I can't do. When (colleges) came through during the recruiting I kept saying I have the best quarterback in the state. You guys are going to look at al these schools that have these three, four-thousand career passing people (but) I've got the best quarterback. I always felt that.
Q: Remember any examples of his perfectionism?
A: No, I just remember him being a real good student of the game. He was a student of the game and he wanted to be good at what he did. He had set goals. I just think his will power and his desire to do well is what sets him apart from a lot of people. He doesn't like to lose. And when he does well he's going to examine why he didn't do well and he doesn't make those mistakes twice. That's why the NFL is going to get a good quarterback.
Q: Was there a point in his college career that you thought he'd be able to play in the NFL
A: I think after his freshman year I realized he would have the chance to play. Just what he was doing and the numbers he was putting up and how calm he was under pressures in some of the games we saw, I thought he had the ability to play at that level but you never know. You never know what's going to happen. You've got to stay injury free and with the exception of some ankle pains he stayed injury free. You've got to stay injury free and have a little bit of luck and you've got to perform and he performed.
You're seeing a project in the works because of not taking the ball under center for four years, but in high school he took the ball under center for four years. Granted he didn't have to drop back and read defenses in high school like he has to reading the NFL or college, but here is a big, strong kid who is a student of the game, he'll work on what he needs to work on, he stays calm and collected, and he just gets better as the game goes on. If you watched a lot of games he played this year he started off kind of slow sometimes and then he just wow, took off.
The game is slow to him. That's what always amazes me, how slow the game comes to him. I think that's huge when you get to the NFL level. He'll go through growing pains just like any quarterback at that level is going to go through but I just think the way he studies the game, the way he prepares, he's going to do very well.
Q: What does this mean for Benet?
A: It's a pretty cool thing. We've had a couple of Olympians, one in shooting and the (women's) hockey goalie went to Benet as a freshman but she only went for one year. We've had quite a few kids playing baseball in the minor leagues, but other than that, we just haven't had...I can't think of really any kids that have done pro stuff. That's just never been our school. We don't have the five or six guys from Naperville North that are in the NFL, we don't have that. But that's hard to get guys, period, that (far). [Editor's note: NFL alumnus Justin McCareins attended Benet as a freshman before enrolling at Naperville North and later Northern Illinois University. The Tennessee Titans drafted him in 2001].
But we're proud of what Dan's done and it's going to be a little measure of satisfaction that we're not just an academic school and we do have our share of athletes and we've had our kids go on and do well in college in a lot of sports.
We're excited for Dan. It's great for him; it's great for Benet Academy being part of his history, Central Michigan. I'm sure Butch Jones and Brian Kelly both enjoy it because they both got a chance to coach him. We're going to be excited for Dan wherever he lands and hopefully if he's close by, with me not coaching football, maybe I'll take a ride down to one of their preseason practices."
Jim Owczarski - Sun-Times Media