Alan Dell

Commentary | Axon asking for one more chance

Have talent will travel!

Meet Ben Axon.

He is a chiseled 6-foot-2, 215-pound running back who can tote the ball. He can bust it in between the tackles or use his 4.4-second 40-yard speed to take it around the perimeter.

Recruiters should be holding candlelight vigils on the doorstep of the former Manatee High star.

Oh, by the way, they used to do that.

Now they see yellow caution flags. Some see red!

The 20-year-old is a diamond in the rough, but needs two courses more than two yards.

It doesn’t seem that difficult.

Ben says it’s not, but things have never been easy for Axon, except when he is carrying the ball.

He hasn’t had the luxury of coming from a stable background and the people he thought were his friends were more destructive to his career than helpful.

So Ben is where he is now.

He needs those courses to get his Associate of Arts degree and then has two years of eligibility left that he can use at a four-year school.

The next move is up to him.

Ben says he has it right. He says he was misled by some at the junior college level. Others would say there was a misunderstanding.

At this point It doesn’t matter. Once Ben gets this degree, there will be suitors. College coaches don’t turn their back on his kind of talent, especially one who can light up an offense.

He did it at Butler CC in 2010, leading the Grizzlies to a No. 2 national junior college ranking.

He was a workhorse back, who sacrificed his speed for the sake of a team that preferred to pound it between the tackles.

His plan was to leave Butler after a year and transfer to a four-year school. But he didn’t have the right credits to graduate and believes he was misled.

“I was supposed to be a one-and-done guy,” he says.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier wanted Axon badly out of high school. He was on his way until an arrest for marijuana and the Gamecocks pulled his scholarship.

Axon hasn’t gotten into any trouble since and turned himself into a physical specimen. But he has been to three colleges: Eastern Michigan, Butler and then Holmes CC.

That might frighten some people. Manatee High assistant coach Chris Conboy says that would be a mistake.

Ben is dedicated, wants to play football and is talented, Conboy says.

He didn’t make the best decision perhaps by leaving Butler because he felt they didn’t have his best interests at heart. He transferred to Holmes CC in Mississippi, but got there late and things didn’t work out.

Axon came home several weeks ago. He wants to get his degree and not rely on anyone else’s promises.

“The coaches at Butler loved him as a player. There was an issue with what courses he needed to take and what was available and it kept him there longer than he wanted,” Conboy says.

Axon is hungry and talented. With his size and speed, that could add up to a lethal package.

“After last season (2010), I was offered by West Virginia, Texas A&M and Mississippi. Texas Tech was seriously talking to me, but wanted me to enroll in December and I couldn’t,” Axon says.

All those suitors fled.

But you only need one and he might have that person in Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart.

The former Manatee High star has a keen eye for talent and is always willing to take a chance on a kid from his hometown.

Some might call this a reclamation project.

But Axon has a tremendous upside and the return on him could be akin to hitting the lottery.

“I talked to coach Taggart and he understands my situation. He told me he would give me a chance and I like what I see there,” Axon says. “I know what I can do. It’s just a matter of getting on stage so I can perform. I need to get my AA degree and then go.”

Western Kentucky has the second-best rusher in the country in senior Bobby Rainey, who is averaging 133 yards and nearly 30 carries a game.

He leaves and Axon slips in. It seems so easy, but maybe with Ben, things are never that simple.

However, people doubted Axon before and he proved them wrong.