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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Storm's Bendross provides return
After enduring a wait, the offensive specialist is seizing opportunity.
By FRANK PASTOR
Published March 12, 2006
TAMPA - T.T. Toliver was traded. Freddie Solomon was injured. Jonathan Ordway and Lynaris Elpheage fumbled away their chances.
As Storm coach Tim Marcum recalled searching frantically around his locker room for a kick returner last week, the answer was right under his nose, waiting his turn.
"Benny, why don't we have you back there?" Marcum asked second-year offensive specialist and veteran Canadian Football League player Demetris Bendross.
"Well, I thought you were trying something else," he responded.
"Benny, in Canada, you don't even play offense," Marcum said. "You're a return guy. Why wouldn't we let you? My gosh, go get yourself back there."
With that exchange, the problem was solved.
Bendross, the student who knows the answer to the teacher's question but doesn't raise his hand, returned five kicks for 121 yards, including a 54-yarder to within 6 inches of the end zone, in a 69-59 win over Kansas City on March 5.
"I never said anything to coach because I thought they had plans already for other players, and I wasn't going to come out and say, "Well, coach, hey, look at me,' " Bendross said. "I was just waiting my turn, and I let everybody do their turn until it came to me."
Bendross, 29, gets another turn today against Dallas, as a foot injury will keep Solomon out.
Solomon, one of the league's top receivers over the past few seasons, has plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. He was injured while running during the fourth quarter of a 61-60 win Feb. 10 over Georgia.
Solomon targeted today's game for his return but said he "wasn't 100 percent" after practicing for the first time Wednesday. He missed Thursday's practice because of a child-support case in Alachua County and rested the foot Friday.
"It's very painful," Solomon said. "You can't get on your toes, can't explode basically. You've got to wait until it heals."
As Solomon waits, Bendross has shined, catching 21 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns in three games. With defensive backs playing off him, he caught 11 passes for 182 yards - fifth most in team history - and two touchdowns in a 58-48 victory Feb.25 over Austin.
"We had to take what they gave us, and most of the time it was in the middle and it was short passes," he said.
Bendross has been making plays since his Arena league debut last season. Signed to a two-day waiver, he was activated from the practice squad when Solomon injured his quadriceps. He caught a 39-yard pass from Stafford on the first play of his first game, a 47-36 win over New Orleans in May.
Bendross, who was working for Bausch & Lomb in Tampa, received a call from Ordway, a former CFL teammate, after the Storm traded Toliver to Nashville last March.
"The first thing that I thought about was that wall," said the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Bendross. "I was like, "Man, I don't know how I'm going to respond to being hit into that wall.' It's already hard enough being hit by a player. On top of that, being hit into a wall, that's extra contact that I don't need. I'm a little fella. I don't need all that hitting."
With guidance from Solomon, who helped polish his route running, Bendross quickly developed into one of Stafford's top targets.
"How fast he's picked up what he's picked up is pretty impressive," Stafford said. "He makes a lot of plays. The only knock, I guess, would be he's a little small in stature, but so are some other guys in this league and they're real successful, so I think Benny's going to be great in this league."