Below is a feature article written by Zac Briley, an intern in the Liberty University Athletics Communications Office on defender Uriah Bentick, a senior from Port of Spain, Trinidad. The article first appeared in the Sept. 22 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the Lehigh at Liberty football game.
Most athletes have goals and aspirations for an athletic career, but each person must take a different path to achieve them. No matter how cautious or careful one may be, road blocks and unforeseeable events are inevitable. Injuries occur and decisions on where to attend school or what team to play for must be made. Sometimes talent and determination are simply overlooked.
Uriah Bentick has faced these challenges head on. The senior defender returns to the Flames men's soccer squad for his final season after recovering from knee surgery earlier this year. Over Bentick's career as a Flame, he has been a core member in providing leadership on and off the field.
Bentick has earned back-to-back Big South All-Conference first team honors and has started all but one game during his previous two years with the Flames. Additionally, he has garnered honors as a member of the NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region third team last year after receiving second team mention in 2010. Each of the past two seasons, the defender has been named to the VaSID All-State first team.
As a junior in 2011, the Port of Spain, Trinidad native led a strong back line to a Big South-leading nine shutouts while only allowing 0.95 goals per game.
More remarkable than Bentick's accomplishments, though, has been his strong faith and reliance on God to lead him to where he is today. Growing up in northern Trinidad, soccer was his passion dating back to his earliest memories.
"I started playing since I can remember," Bentick stated. "I officially started playing the game in a structured league at the age of nine when a coach recruited me to a local team, which I went on to play with for the next 10 years."
Trinidad provided its share of hardships in crime and a vast array of other religions. However, the Bentick family kept its son well-grounded in a strong Christian home.
"The environment was not ideal, but most of my friends back then were either my family or my teammates," Bentick added. "The influence of Christ was always there."
Bentick's life reached a turning point at the age of 16, when he completely gave his life to God.
"I found myself praying and I basically just laid it all at God's feet in terms of the school I would attend or the career path I wanted to take. It was a moment of surrender," Bentick noted.
Starting that day, the pieces to his future with soccer started to fall into place.
"Initially, soccer was all about the fun," said Bentick. "Later in my teenage years I realized I had to make a decision that if I wanted to continue having fun, I would need to get better and become a member of a good system."
Bentick went on to try out for Trinidad's Under-20 national team, but his first attempt proved unsuccessful. The letdown did not prevent him from trying out again, as Bentick eventually made the squad and went on to play with them in the World Cup.
In 2006, a visit to the University of South Florida opened Uriah's eyes to the opportunities of playing collegiate soccer in the United States. Along with his hometown friend and now college teammate, Travis Joseph, Bentick sent out e-mails and video footage to different colleges. After serious looks at Campbell and New Mexico, Bentick and Joseph both decided to attend Liberty.
After experiencing a large amount of success during his first two years, Bentick's toughest challenges as a Flame came in the middle of last season. On Oct. 18, 2011, during a double overtime tie with VMI, Bentick left the game with a knee injury. With x-rays showing no signs of serious damage, the junior missed only one full contest and finished out the rest of the season. He found out later, from an MRI, that he had been playing on a torn meniscus.
Although there are certain types of leaders for different situations, true character shows when one can adjust his or her style to teammates' needs. Bentick did just that last fall after a tough 3-1 loss at Campbell capped off a late-season slump which resulted in only one win for the Flames in seven games.
"I've never been much of the talkative type on the field, but I always try to display leadership by my actions," explained Bentick. "After the Campbell game though, I remember stepping up and mentioning to the team that it's not really soccer, but it's something much deeper. It was about us growing stronger in our relationship with Christ and honoring Him through soccer."
From that point forward, everything clicked. The Flames went on to win their last two regular-season games, before opening postseason play with a close win over Radford and a one-goal victory over top-seeded Coastal Carolina. The Big South Conference title came back to Lynchburg in the end after a 3-1 championship game win over No. 2 seed Gardner-Webb. Liberty then advanced to the NCAA Tournament, where they fell just short at Old Dominion in penalty kicks.
During the offseason, Bentick had the surgery to repair his injured knee. The time off the field allowed him to reflect on his experiences at Liberty and prepare for his final collegiate campaign.
"Coming to Liberty has made me step back and view the reason why I play soccer and who I play it for," recalled Bentick.
"In addition to that, the surgery honestly allowed me to get closer to God." Bentick added. "I know now that it is by His power and His control that I am able to play. It is not my own individual ability, but His, and that is a blessing in my life."
The senior defender has high expectations for the rest of his final season. He stays true to his belief that God has a great plan for the team and his life in the years to come.
"I've learned that being a Division I soccer player grants me a certain level of respect where I can influence others. When I move on from Liberty and pursue a professional future with the sport, I hope I can use my experiences to reach out to others and share the gift of salvation and eternal life," stated Bentick.
The Lord has his own way of reaching out to us all. If we truly listen and are strong in faith, our path will be made clear before us. In this way God calls, and Uriah listens, then follows.
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