Rajaan Bennett Killed: Vanderbilt Football Recruit Shot, Mourned as Great Person
Rajaan Bennett will never make a cut on Vanderbilt Stadium's grass. He'll never score a touchdown, rumble for a first down, or catch a screen pass for the Commodores.
Even so, the positive impact he had on his family, friends, and football teams will live on. Wherever he was and whatever he did, Bennett touched people's lives.
Bennett was killed at his home in Powder Springs, Ga., early Thursday morning in an apparent murder-suicide involving the ex-boyfriend of his mother.
A four-star running back according to Rivals.com, Bennett had signed his Letter of Intent to play football for the Commodores on Feb. 3.
"We're going to miss him," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "The little bit of time that we've known Rajaan, he just seemed to be the ideal young man for Vanderbilt and for college football to tell you the truth."
Details will continue to pour out over how and why this happened, but the undeniable tragedy is that Bennett's time was cut short right when he was entering the prime of his life.
When most kids his age are concentrating on college applications, friends, and graduation, Bennett had different responsibilities after his father Charles was murdered when Rajaan was in the sixth grade. In addition to the commitment to becoming one of the best running backs in Georgia and maintaining strong grades, Bennett helped look after his single mother and his younger siblings.
"Rajaan was the man of the house, there's no doubt about it," Johnson said. "They all looked up to him. That's what he was trying to do in the end. You hate to see guys have to have that role that early in their lives, but he handled it as good as anybody possibly could have."
He played football that well too.
Bennett tore up opposing defenses his senior year at McEachern High School, rushing for 1,857 yards and 28 touchdowns. His bruising running style drew favorable comparisons to NFL stars Knowshon Moreno and Ricky Williams.
When made Bennett even more special, however, was his personality, a "humble and hard-working kid" according to high school coach Kyle Hockman, a guy who included his young siblings in everything he did and took especially good care of his special needs younger brother who also attended McEachern.
Bennett was a perfect fit for Vanderbilt, a school he chose because he wanted to compete but also get a first-rate education.
He was eager to take the next step in life and be a college football star. Johnson got a chance to visit him at his home earlier in the recruiting process.
It was there that Bennett told him he wanted to play for the Commodores over numerous other programs that had expressed interest.
"I felt great, because in my opinion it was the best place for him," Johnson said. "It was going to change his life."
The McEachern community is still reeling from the news. For Vanderbilt, it's an all-too familiar feeling.
This tragedy comes just over five years after another young Commodore, Kwane Doster, was shot and killed in his hometown of Tampa in December of 2004.
It doesn't get any easier coping with that kind of loss.
"The questions just go through your mind right away; how could this happen, why did it happen, why did it have to happen to a good guy like Kwane or Rajaan?" Johnson said. "Unfortunately we don't have the answers to those."
No one does. All we can do is grieve Rajaan, pray for his family, and try to emulate not only who he was, but who he was striving to become.
Rest in peace, Rajaan. You'll always be a Commodore to us.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.
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