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Coach Andre Bennett is a lifetime Vicksburg Gator



Andre Bennett, who once led Vicksburg High School to one of the best football seasons in its existence, is still making an impact on the Gators today.

A native of Vicksburg, Bennett was raised by his mother, Janice,  a retired social worker, and his father, Carl Bennett, who was a police officer and has passed away.

He began playing football in first grade at the YMCA for the Bowmar Bears. By the time he was in Vicksburg Junior High, he was over sized but not yet a great athlete.

“In junior high I was working on myself and trying to become a better athlete,” he said.

In 1999, Bennett was a sophomore playing defensive lineman under former Vicksburg High School head coach James Knox. Bennett started that year on defense along with teammates including Junior Nix, Timothy Brown and Joseph Brown. Bennett would help the Gators to the first round of the playoffs.

“I looked to the older players like Will Hood, Jason Myers and Tim Hall,” Bennett said.

The next year Alonzo Stevens would become Bennett’s new coach.

2000 was Bennett’s year as a star athlete. He also scored 18 on the ACT, making him NCAA eligible.

Coach Stevens moved Bennett to offensive lineman to become the team’s lead blocker. The Gators did not make the playoffs that year but the rising seniors knew that the next season would be different.

“We had championship on our mind,” Bennett said, “and we were going to do whatever it took to make it there.”

The next year, the Vicksburg Gators would have much younger players in the starting lineup including Justin Henry, Ben Shelton, Maurice Taylor, Phelan Gray and Rory Johnson. Despite the young team, Bennett was able to help lead the Gators to the third round of the playoffs, and he became a first team all-state lineman. The Gators also beat a top ranked Louisiana team from John Ehret High School, which brought a lot of recognition to Vicksburg High.

After the 2001 season, Bennett received offers from Notre Dame, Louisiana State and Grambling State University.

“I chose Grambling because they made me feel right at home and did not guarantee me anything,” he said.

Bennett transitioned from high school to now rolling out for 5:30 a.m. workouts and playing offensive tackle. After being redshirted in 2002 freshman year, Bennett got his first start against San Jose State University in 2003 and would remain the starter for the next four years. Bennett would be a part of  the 2002 and 2005 Grambling national championship team before graduating.

After graduating, Bennett participated in a few NFL combines where the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans were present, but he never got his shot in the pros. Bennett moved to Hattiesburg and worked out with Brett Favre while trying to get another shot in the big leagues. Instead, he would go on to play arena football in Ohio for the Mahoning Valley Thunder.

During his final 2008 arena football season, Bennett received a call from his old high school coach, Alonzo Stevens, who asked him to come back and coach the Gators, a job Bennett graciously accepted.

“I love connecting with the players and being a positive influence in young player’s lives,” Bennett said. His advice to young athletes? “Keep God first and do not let anything bring you down.”

Bennett is still coaching the Gators today, and he has four kids of his own: AngJanee, Elexcia, Elmer and Elijah. 

He thanks his girlfriend, Christie Thomas, for being by his side every step of the way and his recently fallen teammate, Robert Lewis, saying he was a great guy and teammate. Bennett also thanks his parents and coach Stevens for helping him become the man he is today.

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