Coastal Carolina football coach David Bennett grew up in the small town of Cheraw, following old-school coaches and listening to the preacher on Sunday mornings.
"When I was a boy, it was Vince Dooley, Frank Howard and Bear Bryant," said Bennett, ticking off legendary coaches at Georgia, Clemson and Alabama. "I couldn't wait for their TV shows to come on so I could watch them. And the best stories you hear are from the preachers that preach on Sunday throughout your life.
"I've learned more stories from preachers than from anybody else."
All of this is to say that Bennett, the Chanticleers' coach for all 10 years they've been playing football in Conway, comes by his way with a story naturally. At 49, he's equal parts Frank Howard and country preacher in his public-speaking style, and has long been known to sportswriters in the state as one of the best quotes in college football.
So it was no surprise to some when Bennett finally broke nationwide last week. A videotape of his weekly news conference went viral on the Internet, spreading all the way to ESPN. In his folksy manner, Bennett turned a story about a cat who sneaked into his house into a moral for his players, complete with screeching imitations of the cat and this memorable tag line:
"We need to be more like a dog! We don't need a bunch of cats in here!"
The press conference was Sept. 7. It began to show up on Twitter on Friday and soon was everywhere, much to Bennett's consternation.
"It's just a true story that I shared with our team," Bennett said this week. "And it took off like wildfire. It must have been a slow media day."
Bennett's performance prompted quick reaction.
"I have never before seen a press conference like David Bennett's and I have a feeling we will never see anything like it again," one Internet writer opined.
Said The Huffington Post: "Move over Dennis Green and Herman Edwards, you have some company," citing famous rants by NFL coaches Green ("They are who we thought they were!") and Edwards ("You play to win the game!")
For those at the news conference, however, Bennett's story was nothing out of the ordinary. For example, after Coastal Carolina's first game, Bennett denied a quarterback controversy by saying, "Ya'll controverse about it."
The point of the story, Young said, was for Coastal players to stop worrying about how they look and worry more about how they play.
"The core of it was about having the players not focus on things like what color their shoelaces are, and that's where the cats came in," Young said. "Cats are concerned with how they look, and he just wants the guys to focus on the business at hand. I think that was the point, but I'm not sure."
Coastal Carolina sports information director Mike Cawood said he's received a lot of media calls about the video, especially since the Chants are playing Georgia on Saturday.
"I've been able to reconnect with a lot of friends this week," Cawood said. "But Coach Benentt is an unbelievably good human being and he'll do just about anything he's asked, a lot of things I don't even know about."
Behind the folksy style is a good coach. Bennett, who played at Presbyterian and worked under Danny Ford at Clemson, has his team off to a 2-0 this year with wins over Furman and Catawaba, and he's 58-35 at Coastal Carolina with four Big South titles.
And if it takes a viral video to bring some attention to the Chants, Bennett is fine with that.
"You want positive coverage for your program and university," he said. "And if it takes a dog and cat story to do it, that's OK. No disrespect to cats -- there's a couple of cats in the world I like.
"But on the field, we need to be more like a dog than a cat."
Follow Jeff Hartsell on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC.
MEET DAVID BENNETT
Who: Coastal Carolina football coachRecord: 58-35 at Coastal, 121-52 overallHigh School: Cheraw (10 varsity letters)College: Presbyterian (1984)Family: Wife, Melanie; daughter, Hayes; son, Jeb.
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