By Thomas Corhern
Cookeville Herald-Citizen Sports
COOKEVILLE -- It was the longest drought in the Ohio Valley Conference between football championships. Nearly four decades had passed since the Tennessee Tech football team was able to hoist the conference championship trophy, but the Golden Eagles found a way.
It took hard work and effort from a lot of names and faces, but there was no denying that Tech senior wide receiver Tim Benford carried a heavy part of the load.
Now, working for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys' roster after signing as an undrafted free agent in April, Benford has a new title to add to his repetoire -- Tennessee Tech's Male Athlete of the Year.
Benford beat out nine other strong candidates for the award, topping Syrym Abdukhalikov (tennis), Alejandro Augusto (tennis), Jud Dillard (basketball), Dontey Gay (football), John Greene (cross country), Tre Lamb (football), Kevin Murphy (basketball), Zach Stephens (baseball) and Richmond Tooley (football).
In the 19 years the award has been given since 1994, 10 winners have come from football with Benford joining such illustrious standouts as Mike Jones (1994), Michael Penix (1996), Andre Caballero (1998), Branon Vaughn (1999, 2000), Chad Evitts (2001), Grant Swallows (2002), Frank Omiyale (2005), Larry Shipp (2008), and now Benford.
"Tim just had a great career here," said Tech football coach Watson Brown. "I'm just very proud of him. He broke all of these records, he was a player of the year in the conference. He did it all for us and he was one of the many factors that helped lead us win a championship."
With four of the ten finalists coming out of the football program, it showed how important winning the team's first OVC championship since 1975 and claiming its first appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs was to the university.
And Benford was one of the driving forces.