The Dolphin Dozen series of interviews conducted by "Voice of the Dolphins" Scott Manze continues with men's soccer junior Kai Bennett. He is in his third year in the program. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript below.
- Do you have superstitions? Are there certain things you have to do before every game?
Actually yes. I wear the same pair of sliders, I guess you could say, before every game. Same color, same style. I roll my socks all the way up before games, just a superstition I have. I think I play well if I do have them up. Other than, just those two things. Really, clothing.
When did you start doing that?
When I was like, 15, I started doing that. Ever since then it has just stuck with me.
- What is your greatest athletic achievement so far?
Greatest athletic achievement? I believe was maybe last year, I made the All-Conference Second Team. Freshman year I made the Freshman Team for the ASUN [Conference], so I think so far…and then of course getting to two consecutive [conference tournament] finals back-to-back, it speaks for itself. But those three, I guess, would be my greatest athletic achievements so far.
- When did you start playing soccer?
When I was about five or six I started playing. I played in a youth league in Miami, and then moved to Georgia and ever since then it's been a part of my life for, it's like, 18 years now.
- If you weren't playing soccer, what sport would you play?
Well, my brother's actually like 6 feet 8 inches, so he plays basketball. I've been playing basketball with him in the backyard for forever, so I think it would be basketball. I played basketball in middle school, but if I had to choose it'd be basketball, other than soccer.
Boy, with a brother so tall, that means you have to hit jumpers, right? You're not getting to the rim against him.
There's no way I can get in the paint with him there, he's going to block everything, so yeah, I have to pull up from three, Steph Curry-style.
- What is your number one song on your hype/pregame playlist right now?
Right now, it'd probably be "Nonstop" by Drake. It gets me pretty hyped. Any hard Drake songs get me pretty hyped. That's probably my go-to right now.
- What drew you to come to JU?
I guess like the unity, and the family-oriented style that JU portrays. Everybody is really tight-knit. Even in class, you can't really hide, there's not like 200 students. You get really an intimate connection with your professor. That relays onto the soccer field as well, because you're hanging out with those guys all the time and that's your family at the end of the day. That's what really drew me here.
- What is your major and why did you choose it?
Finance right now. To be honest, at first, I was a kinesiology major, and then I was looking into post-graduate stuff and I thought about it and I was like 'I kind of want to stay with sports in some type of way'. I chose finance to become maybe a financial advisor or agent for athletes at the end of the day. I can also do my Master's program here if possible.
- Where are you from and what is the defining characteristic of your town?
Originally, I'm from Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica. We lived there for a good five years. Then, family moved to Miami, Fla. Lived there for two years, then moved again to Atlanta, Ga. and we lived in Atlanta for the rest of my high school and middle school career, and now I'm here.
What defines Kingston?
It's just like, when you think Jamaica, you think Kingston. That's the capital, that's just where everybody's from I guess when you say Kingston. I lived there for like, a year and a half, then another, I'd say two to three years, lived in Ocho Rios, but we'd commute to Kingston all the time. That's just like the hub of Jamaica. That's the city. If you think, you know, Jacksonville is the city of Duval County, Kingston is the city of Jamaica. That's what you think of when you think of Kingston.
Do you get back to Jamaica?
I actually went back this summer. I did a little internship for an accounting firm in Jamaica. I always love it. The beach is beautiful, everything's beautiful, the girls are beautiful. [laughs]
[Laughs] Sounds like you've got a lot of stuff going for you down there.
- Do you have a favorite road trip memory from your time at JU?
Last year, we went to Charlotte, UNC Charlotte. We had this little rap battle before, at the dinner the day before the game. Some guys were just saying some really stupid stuff. [laughs] Then we had a little dance battle. I clearly remember one of my teammates, Bryson [Pink], doing the Whip and the Nae Nae and stuff. That was really funny, that'd probably be my favorite, one of my best road trip memories.
Whip and Nae Nae, that's kind of throwback at this point, isn't it? [laughs]
Yeah, that's throwback. That's like 2015, 2014 throwback, yeah.
- Why do you wear your number?
I chose seven because a lot of my favorite players wear the number seven. Also, I don't really look into it that much. I mean, if I had the choice, my real number, the number I wore since high school is number 11. I don't know why, I've just been loving that number. I don't know, for some reason, seven has really stuck with me, since I changed. There's no really superstition behind that one, surprisingly. Seven is just a cool number to me.
It does look sleek, doesn't it?
Yeah, it does. I like it, I like it a lot.
- What is your go-to pregame meal?
To be honest Scott, I don't like to eat too much before games. I like to snack throughout the day, you know granola bars and maybe a PB&J, but I really don't like eating too heavy because I don't like eating on a full stomach. Before a game, I usually make a PB&J, that's probably my go-to, or a granola bar. Just keep it simple.
Are you a halftime snack guy?
No, honestly no, but we do have fruit snacks at halftime. I do munch on those during half, but no, not really.
- Last question. First part is answering a question by Jasmyn Brown of women's basketball. She wants to know, why did you end of picking soccer and sticking with soccer over playing any other sport?
It's actually a, I don't want to say a cringey story, but when I was like, 13, I was kind of going through a tough time with soccer. I had a coach that thought 'Kai, you're never going to be good enough to play' and I was kind of chunky back then, so I wasn't nearly as fast or anything. He told basically I was too soft to play, yada, yada, yada. I ended up quitting, for a year. Came back, I got cut from that team that coach told me, and I came back and tried out for that same team, and he loved me. He was like 'come back, please', blah, blah, blah. Ever since then, it's been proving to myself that I'm good enough. I guess that coach really showed me that you have to believe in yourself, but at the same time you have to stay humble and work hard, grind every day. So that hunger has never really left me for soccer. That's kind of why I chose soccer, because it's me proving to myself that I can do this.
I like it. That's a sign of determination. Most people seem to have some reason why they've stuck with something this long and that's a good one. We'll wrap with you coming up with a question for our next interview subject.
What background helps you connect with your teammates?