The stat was too good to pass up. Roughly 95 percent of the players participating pick up a college offer, Braden River High senior Brendan Bengtsson said.
So Bengtsson followed the plan that former teammate Matthew Haftke used in setting up a GoFundMe account to raise money for a trip to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game in Jacksonville on Jan. 13.
The Braden River High senior follows Haftke (2016) and Dylan Tyson (2015) as Pirates receiving invites to the annual high school football showcase game.
“I’m excited to go, because it’s a good opportunity to get in front of scouts,” Bengtsson said. “It’s more exposure, more than anything.”
Never miss a local story.
Bengtsson was a multi-year starting center for Braden River. This past season, the Pirates tallied 2,448 rushing yards and quarterback Bryan Gagg threw for 2,253 yards with Bengtsson anchoring the offensive line.
Bengtsson’s high school season at Braden River ended in the second round of the playoffs with a 41-32 loss to Venice that saw him uncharacteristically snap the ball over Gagg’s head and through the back of the end zone for a safety late in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like I can go out there and do my job, and show other colleges that I’m just not someone to look over,” Bengtsson said.
But extending his high school career for another game means raising enough funds to even get to Jacksonville to participate.
Haftke set up a GoFundMe account for his inclusion into last year’s game held at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.
The Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game is held annually in three venues: Dallas, Jacksonville’s EverBank Stadium and Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s not cheap, but it’s a really good experience and I’m super excited for it,” Bengtsson said.
Bengtsson estimated the price tag for playing in the game in Jacksonville at $2,600.
To combat that hefty out-of-pocket expense for the high school senior, his mother Melinda and father Bruce helped him set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds.
As of Thursday afternoon, Bengtsson has raised $1,285 of his $3,000 goal, when factoring in administrative costs that GoFundMe takes out, from 20 different donations.
“It just makes me feel good that I have people that I can trust and can rely on,” said Bengtsson, “that would back me up for anything that I will do in the future. I know they will be there for me.”
The $2,600 cost to go to the game covers shoulder pads, jerseys, helmets, hotel and food for practicing and playing at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home stadium.
That aspect, in addition to displaying his skill in front of additional college recruiters, is too good to pass up.
“Not many people can say they get to play on a NFL football stadium,” Bengtsson said. “You just have this adrenaline.”