IOWA CITY, Iowa – Seth Benson made a career change decision in December 2017.
An all-state linebacker from Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD, Benson had been committed to South Dakota State for six months. And then Iowa called.
With the December 2017 signing period just a week away, the Hawkeyes offered the South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year a scholarship. An offer he accepted.
“It’s fun to look back on,” said Benson, heading into his senior season with the Hawkeyes. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am blessed that I had the opportunity and was able to come to Iowa. And I have a long way to go.”
As fate would have it, Benson’s final season at Iowa begins with a Sept. 3 matchup with South Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium. This goes much deeper than just a season opener. This is personal.
Seth’s father, Chuck, led the Jackrabbits in rushing in 1977. His brother, Austin, also played football for South Dakota State. His mother, JoElle, played basketball there and led the 1985-86 team in field goal percentage and blocked shots. His sister, Ellie, played volleyball there. And Sethi was ready to follow in their footsteps.
So that was the choice. Continue the family legacy at Brookings or get a little Big Ten. It wasn’t a decision Seth took lightly.
“I’m a big family man,” Benson said. “That was the hardest thing. I wanted to be a faithful son too. And I was committed to a school and a program (at South Dakota State). I would be 51/2 hours from my family. I had to think about it. But at the end of the day, I didn’t want to look back and say, “What if?”
The South Dakota State coaching staff made it easy for Benson, supporting his decision. A decision that also crossed the path of friendship.
One of Benson’s best friends is Zach Heins, who played high school football with him at Washington and signed with South Dakota State. Heins, like Benson, a fifth-year senior, is a tight end for the Jackrabbits and a two-time all-conference selection in the Missouri Valley.
“Zach is one of my best friends,” Benson said. “I remember talking about (playing in 2022). Maybe it was the first year. And now it’s already here.”
Benson and Jack Campbell make up one of Iowa’s best linebacking duos under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Campbell, the middle linebacker, led the team in tackles last season with 143. Benson, the tight end, was the second leading tackler with 105. Both started all 14 games. Campbell and Benson are mentioned in the same breath as the talented duo of Iowa. of Chad Greenway and Adbul Hodge (2002-2005).
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“Coach Ferentz always talks about Chad and Abdul when they were here,” Benson said. “And how they competed in everything they did.”
Greenway and Hodge also have a relationship with Benson. When Seth was trying to decide whether to stick with South Dakota State or take Iowa’s offer, he got in touch with Greenway.
“He was actually here the other day because his daughter (Maddyn) was at the women’s basketball camp,” Benson said. “We talked about it. When I called him he was in the same situation as me. Even going full circle, he would also go to the state of South Dakota. He told me then how he got through everything, being from South Dakota.”
Greenway, from Mount Vernon, SD, also transferred to the Jackrabbits and signed with Iowa. Greenway’s advice helped put Benson at ease with his decision.
“I took a leap of faith and I’ve never looked back,” Benson said.
Benson doesn’t have to leave the football facility to talk to Hodge about the quarterback position. Abdul is the newest member of Iowa’s coaching staff, where he is responsible for tight ends.
“He came back in the summer and was in the linebackers room every now and then,” Benson said. “Or he would go out on the field helping us. It’s incredible to have him in the facility now, with the experience and the wisdom and everything that he has for us.”
When Benson returns to Sioux Falls now, everyone he meets tells him they’ll be at the September 3rd game.
“I’ll have to find a lot of tickets for that one,” Seth said.
He said he knows many players on the South Dakota State team besides Heins. So it won’t be a regular season opener for him. He said he may have to temper his emotions before kick-off.
“I usually try to stay pretty calm through games,” he said. “It all comes down to doing what you have to do. There will be many people here. But it will be fun, I think.”
The Benson family, South Dakota State faithful on most Saturdays, will flip the script on Sept. 3. They will be decorated in black and gold.
“Yeah,” Seth said. “That’s a no-brainer.”