Former Coastal Carolina football coach David Bennett didn’t realize he was giving two speeches at the school’s Sasser Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony Friday night until his wife read the program.
Two of Bennett’s former players – linebacker Maurice Simpkins and safety Quinton Teal – are part of the five-person induction class and are the first football representatives to receive the honor.
“My wife told me this, I didn’t know,” Bennett said. “Maurice asked me if I’d do the presenting of him and I guess Quinton assumed it because my wife said, ‘I’ve got the program here, and you’re doing them both.’ So I said, ‘What an honor and what a privilege.’”
Bennett sidestepped talk about this being his first time back on campus since he was replaced as head football coach in December and later finalized his separation from the school. Now the athletic director at Socastee High School, he has a Braves football game to attend before sliding over to give the induction speeches. He won’t be around for the Coastal game Saturday when the hall of fame class will be further recognized because he has a prior commitment.
“You put those guys before yourself,” Bennett said. “You go back for those guys and their families. We’ve got a ballgame Friday [at Socastee] so I’ll slide over there and do that presentation and slide back over there.”
As he said, the night is not about him. And it’s not just about football.
In addition to Simpkins and Teal, former Coastal baseball star Mike Costanzo, softball standout Meagen Johnson, and championship cross country and track athlete Anne Marie Moutsinga will also be honored at the event inside the Adkins Field House. PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson was voted into the hall of fame this year as well, but due to a prior commitment he’ll be honored as part of a future class.
While Costanzo has remained close to coach Gary Gilmore and the Chanticleer baseball program, even working out with the team this week, and Simpkins has kept in touch with Bennett, Teal said he has not kept in close contact with anybody at Coastal and hasn’t been back to campus in a while. He looked forward to the opportunity to do both Friday.
“It’s going to be a cool deal,” he said by phone. “It’s been a while since I’ve been back around there, seeing everybody that I used to know, used to talk to and relive the days of being on campus and being a college student.”
Those were good days for Teal, indeed.
He is one of just three Coastal football players to be three-time first-team All-Big South selections and was the program’s first two-time All-American. He led the conference in interceptions three times and is the league’s all-time leader in that category with 17 picks.
The stat that he’s most proud of, though, is “34-10,” he said. That was the Chants’ regular-season record in the program’s first four years on the field.
“Just think about it – in five years, we went 34-10, three conference championships, one playoff appearance,” Teal said. “... That’s unheard of when you think about it. And if you want to look at it further, we lost five games in the first season.”
It didn’t come without obstacles, though, and with the first football players going into the school’s athletics hall of fame this week, Bennett and Teal used the occasion to reflect once again on how far the program has come.
Bennett told the familiar stories of his early teams having two to three players sharing a locker and there being no practice field so the team had to use whatever high school field or area driving range would give them access.
“Did I make the right decision?” Teal remembers asking himself at times. “Once you were getting recruited, all the coaches and every school wants you. They tell you everything that you want to hear. And Coastal has nothing. The only thing we had was hopes and dreams of what Coastal could become.”
Teal helped the Chants to those first three Big South championships and was part of the 2006 team that became the first in league history to make the FCS playoffs. He went on to play four seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers.
Now, he owns a workout facility in Charlotte, N.C., Bennett said. Teal, meanwhile, just said he’s been focusing on his golf game.
“I didn’t want to play more than five years [in the NFL],” he said. “I wanted to play till I was 29 so I could say I retired in my 20s. Unfortunately, it came a year early – or not, who knows what will happen this year. But if it happens; it happens. If it doesn’t; it doesn’t. ... Life goes on. You can’t sit around and wait on something you can’t control.”
Costanzo, meanwhile, enters the hall of fame after slugging 45 home runs over three seasons from 2003-05, earning two Big South Player of the Year honors and becoming the first player in program history to be named a consensus All-American in 2005. Still working his way through professional baseball, he made his Major League Baseball debut this season with the Cincinnati Reds.
Johnson played only two seasons for the Coastal softball team from 2005-06, but she left her mark on the record books in that time. The Big South Player of the Year in 2006, she led the Chants to the conference’s regular-season and tournament championships that year. She still holds the CCU record for home runs in a season (20) while ranking in the top-10 in numerous other categories as a force both at the plate and on the mound. Her 1.66 career earned-run average is fourth all-time at Coastal and ninth in Big South history.
And Moutsinga is one of the more decorated athletes to come through campus. As a cross country and track standout, she won a total of 13 Big South championships and 24 All-Big South honors. She was the league’s cross country champion and runner of the year in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and the Big South Indoor Track and Field Most Outstanding Athlete in 2004 – among many other highlights.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.