David Bentley holds up a sign after the Red Devils defeated North Summit to advance to the 2013 Utah State 2A Championship Game. He went from being a scrawny freshman with barely any playing time even at the sub-varsity level, to a key component on the Red Devils' second-place team. He will be a walk-on freshman in 2014 for the Dixie State Red Storm. [Photo courtesy of Leticia Bentley]

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories highlighting Grand County High School student-athletes moving on to compete at the collegiate level

It was a long and difficult path for David Bentley, from “fat-and-slow” third-grader to scrawny high school freshman to incoming recruit to play football at Dixie State University, but he said he’s grateful for the experiences along the way.

Bentley is a 2014 Grand County High School graduate who has played football since third grade. He has played on the offensive and defensive lines, where not many stats are kept and heroics go unsung. Playing at a defensive end position that generally eats blocks to enable other defenders to make tackles, Bentley still managed to finish third on the Red Devil squad with 50 tackles in 2013 on his way to being named a 2A first-team all-stater in the Salt Lake Tribune and 2A second-team all-stater in the Deseret News; he also earned honorable mention from the Deseret News in 2012.

He was one of the bigger kids early on growing up and had to have a “X” taped on the back of his helmet in youth football, meaning he wasn’t allowed to carry the ball. He became skinny, using bullying from others as motivation, then in high school, had to bulk back up from scrawny and weak to one of the strongest players on the team.

Bentley’s father, Scott Bentley, said it was fun to watch his son’s transformation.

“When he first started playing football in third grade, he was kind of fat and slow,” Scott Bentley said. “He worked really, really hard to get where he is.”

David Bentley’s upbringing and his time as a Red Devil taught him the value of hard work and not to get too excited when things go well or too down-on-yourself when things don’t go well. One coach in particular came to Scott Bentley’s mind when it came to helping David Bentley stay pointed in the right direction.

“Mike “Moose” Randall, was very encouraging; David had a special bond with him,” Scott Bentley said. “He’s a really good coach in the way he encouraged not only David, but all the kids.”

Randall said David Bentley didn’t look like he was going to blossom into a key contributor when he entered as a freshman.

“When I first met David, he was a scrawny 150-pounder who could barely move himself, let alone anybody else,” Randall said. “He was behind the curve and he asked me what he needed to do. I told him he needed to be bigger and stronger, and from then on, he lived in the weight room. He’s a special kid.”

Randall said David Bentley has the intelligence and drive to be successful in everything he does, including football.

“He’s a sponge that soaks up everything we tell him,” Randall said. “If we pointed out a technique problem, he’d be in before and after practice working on it until he got it right. He tried to make people around him better, too. He had no problem with me using him as an example of how you can go from what you are to what you want to become.”

Randall said Bentley’s intelligence and fundamentals will give him a leg up on others at the college level.

“During the state title game, Zane Taylor told me he saw our players using techniques and footwork that he learned in college, so for someone coming from a small school, his fundamentals will be better than coaches expect,” Randall said. “He sees and understands everything that’s going on during the game as well. When he’s done playing, he’ll be one hell of a a football coach.”

David Bentley will be a walk-on freshman likely to redshirt the 2014 season for the Red Storm. He also received offers to play at Colorado Mesa University and Ft. Lewis College in Colorado, University of the Redlands in California and the University of Amherst in Massachusetts, although like most colleges Division 2 or below, they generally don’t offer scholarships to first-year players.

“It was a really exciting point in my life,” David Bentley said of the day he chose to attend Dixie State. “I’m pretty excited that I get to stay close to home.”

His mother, Leticia Bentley, was relieved more than excited with his decision.

“I was very relieved that he didn’t decide to go to Redlands or Amherst,” she said.

David Bentley said he made these colleges aware of him by going to their camps and sending them highlight videos. He likely won’t see much of the field on game day for another two or three years, but he’s excited to fight to earn his spot. He said the competitive atmosphere on the Grand County football team prepared him for the next level.

“It was a good experience; there were a lot of hardships,” David Bentley said. “I always had to fight for my spot.”

David Bentley said he earned the Dean’s Scholarship from Dixie State and currently works at the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center and the Lazy Lizard Hostel to earn money to help pay for college.

“David will be successful in whatever he chooses to do,” Randall said. “He’s definitely a go-getter.”

The Red Storm open the season on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction, Colo., versus Colorado Mesa.

“When I first met David, he was a scrawny 150-pounder who could barely move himself, let alone anybody else. He was behind the curve and he asked me what he needed to do. I told him he needed to be bigger and stronger, and from then on, he lived in the weight room. He’s a special kid.”

Grand County graduate conquers difficult path