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On the brink of making history, Benny Snell puts Wildcats on his shoulders

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Benny Snell has already left a mark at Kentucky. He wants to leave footprints on the program by the time he leaves Lexington and that could be sooner rather than later as he prepares for his junior campaign.

Snell has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his first two seasons with the Wildcats and became the first player in school history to accomplish the rare feat after he gained 1,318 yards and scored 18 touchdowns as a sophomore last year. He needs just 1.412 yards to become Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher, an accomplishment that has eluded the team’s stable of running backs for more than four decades.

Although known as a prolific runner, Snell also wants to develop a knack for matching catches when called upon this season and he’s more than prepared to take on the challenge.

“I’ve been working on being guarded in man coverage a lot,” he said. “Working with my hands and catching the ball and if I drop a ball, I make sure I hold myself accountable. That’s one thing I’m improving.”

Benny Snell cuts up with his teammates during Media Day earlier this month at Kroger Field. Snell is on the bring of becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

To help take his game to another level, Snell has been working one-on-one with middle linebacker Kash Daniel.

“We get at it,” Snell said. “We work with each other every day to get better.”

Daniel has been impressed with Snell’s ability to get in the open field and expand his reach on the field.

“He gets to go against the best linebacker in the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “Sometimes get gets the best of me and I get the best of him in pass rush and in pass coverages.”

Snell isn’t shy about his talents but credits the offensive line for making things happen in the trenches.

“The offensive line does such a great job,” he said. “Those guys deserve all of the credit. They don’t get as much credit as they deserve. They do such a great job of communicating at the line, getting at the second level and they do things a lot of people don’t notice, but in the film room, I notice it. I can’t thank them enough and I’m thankful that everybody is back.”

Snell is outspoken about his abilities and doesn’t mind playing through injuries.

“I always try to make myself as good as I can be off the field, whether it’s film, practice or more reps,” he said. “What separates myself from other running backs is that I am very durable,” he said. “I can get 200-plus carries and still be fine for the rest of season, I broke my rib during a game last year, but I came in at halftime and ended up going back in, scored and finished the game and didn’t miss any games. If it’s a nagging injury, I’m in the training room and I’m going to get it fixed. If it’s something to do with pain tolerance, I’m going to play through it. I’m playing through everything.”

In fact, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops said it’s hard to keep Snell off the field in any game situation.

“He doesn’t want to come out of the game,” the Kentucky coach said. “He wants to put the team on his shoulders and you love that mentality and that’s good with us.”

Now a veteran, Snell isn’t worried about taking on a new role as one of the team leaders this season and began grooming for the title last season.

“I’ve been a leader since last year,” he said. “You earn the respect more when you’re on the field. I lead by example a lot. Guys like to see what I do and like to follow. I like to be a leader. I never like to follow. The team has matured and we are sticking a lot of young guys under our wing. It’s exciting.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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