Time and Change is a series at BuckeyeNation in which we chat with former Ohio State athletes.
Time and Change is a series at BuckeyeNation where we chat with former Ohio State athletes.
LeCharles Bentley was a four-year letter winner at Ohio State from 1998-2001 and is regarded as one of the greatest linemen to play for the Buckeyes.
A consensus first-team All-American as a senior, he won the Rimington Trophy, an award that recognizes the best center in college football.
Taken in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints, Bentley was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year by Sports Illustrated. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Bentley came to the Cleveland Browns as a free agent in 2006.A knee injury in July 2006 sidelined him, however, and a staph infection ended his career.
Bentley, 32, dabbled in radio for WKNR-AM 850 in Cleveland from 2009-2011. He is currently living in Cleveland and owns the L. Bentley O-Line Academy in Avon, Ohio. It is a facility that takes a comprehensive approach to teaching offensive line skills.
BuckeyeNation caught up with Bentley and asked him about his NFL career, what went wrong at Ohio State in recent years and teaching future linemen.
BN: The injury obviously cut your career short. Any what-ifs with you about what could have been a very long career in the NFL?
Bentley: At this point in my life, I don't look at it as my career was cut short. I played as long as I was able to play. From the high school level, to the collegiate ranks through my years in the National Football League, I was very successful as a football player and my time ran its course. You hate to see the way or the fashion it ended with the staph infection, but that was part of the process. It's unfortunate, but life goes on.
BN: You were down in Columbus as an instructor for the Friday Night Lights camp in July. What was your overall impression of it and what kind of vibe did you get?
Bentley: I thought it was a great event. I'm looking forward to seeing how it's going to grow and see its overall impact on recruiting and the fan interaction aspect of it. It's one of those things where for the first time the players get to be in the stadium with the lights on, which is a rarity in itself, and have fans there that get to see them perform in front of former great Buckeyes. As a former player, I was almost jealous. Being an instructor, it was an honor.
BN: You went through a coaching change with John Cooper for three years and coach Jim Tressel at the end. What do you tell these sophomores, juniors and seniors on this Ohio State team?
Bentley: (Laughing) Get in line. It's simple. Get in line. Whatever the coach wants you to do, do it. It's just the same way it is in the NFL, whenever there's a regime change, that particular regime is going to want to leave their mark or instill their ideas and principles of what the program should be. The ideas that you might have held on to with the last regime, you have to let those go. You have to be open to what's going on and be open to change and be open to growth. That's the biggest hurdle for many guys to get over.
BN: Is there anything you took from John Cooper and Jim Tressel that you use in a business sense or maybe in everyday life?
Bentley: With Coach Cooper, it was something he would always say that I apply to business, that I apply to being a father, that I apply to dealing with people. One thing he would always say is, 'If a dog is going to bite, he's going to bite as a puppy.'
That right there was in reference to his idea of a freshman coming in and how he was going to mature into the program. If you were going to be four or five years deep before you played at Ohio State, you were a miss. Coach Cooper wanted guys to come in and show their salt early on. That's how I interact with business people and as being a father. Raising my kids, I want them to show their salt as young boys, be it in the class room or be it in athletics. As a businessman, I want to show my salt immediately. I don't want you to have to spend two or three years around me to figure out what I'm about. You're going to know what I'm about immediately. That's one of the things I took away from Coach Cooper.
With Coach Tressel, it was staying tight with my Bible and scripture studies. He had a very interesting way of dealing with me. The very first day he came in, he told me, either you're going to get with my program or you're going to be out of here. This is me being an All-Big Ten performer at that point and he told me, 'Look, you're either going to do it my way or we're going to find somebody else to do it.' I wasn't a bad guy, in my humble opinion, he just saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. He would spend every single day after practice and we would study Proverbs. He would give me two or three scriptures to read and I would come back and give him a sheet of paper with my idea of what that particular passage meant to me. We did that every day up until Michigan week. That right there as far as staying consistent, staying close with my studies, that's what I took away.
BN: What does it mean to be a Buckeye?
Bentley: In my opinion, it's the idea of carrying on tradition. That's what being a Buckeye means to me. If you would come to my house right now, you would come to my kids' rooms and see a big picture of The Horseshoe. Their bedspreads are Ohio State. It's all Buckeyes or Ohio State stuff everywhere. The idea is to carry on tradition. Not just from an athletic standpoint, but from a social aspect. When people come to Ohio State, there's just something about the place that touches you. It's then your responsibility to give that to somebody else. I'm trying to give that to my children right now and it's great to still be interactive at Ohio State. I can still give my part about what's special to me with Ohio State to a younger generation.
Bentley: I'm excited to see what it's going to be. I'm not sure yet. Just like most people, you aren't sure how things are going to play out, but I can tell you this, from what I see so far, I see a change of culture. That's not saying the last coach was bad or the coach before that was bad, but at some point and time everything runs its course. It was time for a change and it just happened to be Coach Meyer.
Coach Meyer is the change that Ohio State needed at that particular time. There's a sense of entitlement cultivated down there, not by intention, but by how things manifested over time. When you have a certain level of success repeatedly, guys expect to come in and things would just happen. It's the same in high school. You have success for many years and the young guys think when you put the uniform on, boom, you're a state champion or win a national championship. Uh, no. With Urban Meyer, he's bringing back a culture that is going to be very key into getting that program turned around internally. Ohio State has always been a premier program, but internally there were some things that had to be fixed and I think he's the right person to do it.
BN: What's next for LeCharles Bentley?
Bentley: I'm going to just keep grinding with my facility. I really love what I'm doing by touching players from a holistic point of view and really having an impact with offensive linemen. I think it needs to be done. It's a wide openness that really needs to be tapped into. As the game continues to evolve and defenses become bigger, faster, stronger and defenses within themselves schematically become more complex, and the game becomes more of a passing game, the offensive lineman is often a lost art. I would like to do my part to maintain the artistic form of the lineman being able to play at a high level.