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CAAFB Gameday Features — William and Mary Senior Profile: Ben Cottingham

Sep 11, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

The following Q&A Feature is available at tribeathletics.com. Click here or take a read below.

William and Mary’s Ben Cottingham

Where are you from?
My dad was in the army, so I have lived all over the place — mostly on the East Coast and a little bit in Alaska. I went to high school all four years at Edgewood High School in Abingdon, Md.

Do You Remember your life in Alaska at all?
My most memorable moment from life in Alaska was coming home from pre-school one afternoon to a huge moose in the front yard. They wouldn’t let me off of the bus until the moose left. It was crazy living up there.

What service was your father a part of?
My dad served 22 years in the Army.

When did you start playing football?
Actually, when I lived down here, my dad was stationed in Fort Eus­tis and I think I began football when I was in the fifth grade.

Did you father play football?
No.

Did he encourage you to play?
Well, my family always loved watching football together — my dad, brother and I, so I would say that encouraged me to play football.

Did your brother play?
Yeah, he played at Woodside High School in Newport News.

Have you always played defensive back?
No. When I first started playing, I was a linebacker and I played quarterback and running back on offense. Then in high school I pretty much stuck to defensive back and wide receiver.

How was your team in high school?
We were pretty good – we won our county championship our senior year. That was fun, although, somehow we didn’t make the state playoffs.

Talk about your decision to come to William and Mary. Did you have other opportunities out of high school?
William and Mary was the only school that recruited me for football. A couple of Division III schools recruited me, but I didn’t want to go to any of those schools. I basically decided to come here be­cause I knew that this was the best academic school and the best opportunity for me to play football. I got in here with an academic scholarship but somehow got put on the waitlist at the University of Maryland, so I felt like I was kind of destined to come here.

Did you know any of the other football players coming in?
No. I knew a couple of them from being in the plus program that summer before I got here.

What is the plus program?
It’s a summer program for multi-cultural students. Basically it’s just to get you acclimated with the College before you get here. It was pretty cool, I enjoyed it.

Had you talked to Coach Laycock prior to arriving here?
I had not talked to Coach Laycock. Coach (Steven) Jerry, a former running backs coach here, was the one who recruited me and he told me that I probably wouldn’t be offered a scholarship or any­thing like that. But, he told me that I could come in as a walk-on and try to earn my spot on the team, and I had a good chance.

Did he know you from high school?
He recruited me when I was in high school. He came to visit me a couple times. He saw me play basketball – I don’t think he ever saw me play football – but he saw my highlight tape.

Talk about the first day of tryouts. What was going through your head? Did you think you would make the team?
Well, I thought I would make the team because I believed in myself. I knew I had the ability to play at this level. I was kind of nervous; I didn’t know what they were going to make us do for the tryout or anything like that. But once we started going and doing the drills they were asking us to do, I knew I was going to be fine. I saw who I was going to be competing against—they actually made me race somebody.

Who’d you race against? You win?
Some guy—he didn’t make the team. I beat him in the race, so I guess I ruined his college football career, so I feel a little bad about that.

What was your reaction when you made the team?
I was pretty excited. I probably told my roommate first just because he was trying to walk on too, but he had to get shoulder surgery. But he was pretty excited, and then I probably called my parents and told them and they were happy for me. But I expected to make the team, so I didn’t get overjoyed. I just knew it would be a lot of hard work from there.

Did you feel any pressure playing on the same field as schol­arship guys? Was there any tension on or off the field?
On the practice field you can’t really tell which guys are on scholar­ship and which guys aren’t. Off the field you still never really talk about it like that. The tension for me was more like ‘okay, now I’m on the practice field going against guys who are three or four years older than me—guys who he recruited here to play.’ Those guys were good, and it took me time to get acclimated to the level of play. It probably took me a whole year to get used to the game speed and size, so that was the toughest part.

Who did you most look up to on the team?
That’s easy, [graduated senior and current Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback] Derek Cox! My freshman year, I think he was a red­shirt freshman or sophomore and I used to work out with him. They gave us little sheets in the weight room with our names on them. I would do his sheet not my sheet because I felt like my sheet was too light, I wouldn’t accomplish anything. So I used his sheet – I’d always stay after the workout and do whatever he was doing, and I’d sit with him during meetings. I was just trying to get any advan­tage I could because he was the best guy that was here, so to be the best you have to be with the best.

Do you keep in touch with him?
Yeah, I talked to him a couple weeks ago.

What was it like when you first started playing—what was go­ing through your head?
The toughest thing my redshirt freshman year when I actually start­ed playing was they had me on special teams on punt returns trying to block the gunner, who is the first guy that’s trying to tackle the punt returner. All the guys on the team know that’s the hardest thing to do in the game of football. It’s one-on-one and the guy has a million yards to go, and basically he’s unstoppable. That was the hardest thing, and then the first game I actually got to play was when Cox got hurt and they threw me in there. They probably got a touchdown the second play I was in there, and I was like ‘oh my gosh’ But I kept going, and I eventually played a great game—I think I had seven tackles in a half, so that was pretty good. Then I finally got in with significant time against Richmond when I got two interceptions, so that really boosted my confidence a lot. I felt like finally I got my chance, and I had proven myself. I felt like I could only go up from there.

Talk about your ups and downs—what would you say was your lowest point?
My lowest point was probably my redshirt sophomore year we were playing against New Hampshire and I got a really bad high ankle sprain. I felt horrible, like my season was over because I knew the severity of the injury, and I knew how much it was going to affect my play. I thought I couldn’t play at the same level with this injury. But I treatment on the ankle and kept playing throughout the whole season. I missed one game, but my ankle was never the same. It’s finally back to full health now, but that was probably the toughest time, because I went home that night and was dealing with all these pressures from school and the injury made it very tough. I kind of got down on myself, worried, so that was probably the toughest moment.

Moving on to highs, what has been your favorite victory?
Beating Virginia (in the 2009 season opener) was pretty exciting. The thing that made last season the most exciting season ever for me in my college football career was that not only was it our win­ningest season, but we definitely put in the effort to get to where we got last season. It’s always rewarding when you put in the effort to get the results.

What are some of your team’s goals this season?
Our primary goal is just to win every week. It’s an 11-game season, but we want to win one game 11 times. We don’t say we want to go undefeated, we just want to win every week so that’s the primary goal. On the defense we had a very successful season last year, so we just want to match that level or go above. We always talk about how there are ‘good defenses,’ and then there are ‘cham­pionship defenses,’ and we want to be a ‘championship defense.’ Last year we were a good defense, but this year we want to be a championship defense.

What about personal goals, do you think about stuff like that?
A little bit. I want to get some more interceptions; I had zero last year. I want to compete with B.W., so I want to make more plays and get some highlights.

What would you say is your biggest strength? How are you able to match up against bigger wide receivers?
I would say I’m a pretty smart guy. I have a high football IQ, so we practice all week and watch film all week on the other team – some­how it just all syncs into my mind. I can close my eyes and see what they’re about to do. So that’s probably my biggest strength in see­ing what my opponent is about to do on every play.

What about stuff you want to work on?
I just want to stay healthy. My biggest goal over the summer was getting my body in shape and staying healthy. A couple of the other defensive backs and I do Yoga every morning for about 30 minutes, just to stretch and get our muscles loosened up. We’re going to continue that throughout the season. I know it sounds funny, a bunch of football players doing yoga, but it works and my body is feeling the best it has felt for four years here.

What professional athlete do you compare yourself to?
Charles Woodson has always been my favorite player in the NFL. I was so mad the year the Patriots won the Super Bowl, because that was the tuck rule and it was Charles Woodson who got the sack and caused fumble. My roommate, who is a big Patriots fan, even admitted it was a fumble. I used to idolize Charles Woodson.

What is your major?
Right now I’m working on my graduate degree to get my master’s in education, elementary education.

What do you want to do after you graduate?
I want to be a teacher, fifth or sixth grade, and then be a personal trainer on the side during the summer. I’ve thought about maybe teaching somewhere overseas, but we’ll see how that works out.

Are you involved in anything else on campus?
Athletics takes up a big amount of my time, but last year I tutored at Matthew Whaley Elementary School and that was a lot of fun. I would go up there once or twice a week and work with a kinder­garten class. I love those kids and I’ll probably visit them a few times this year because I’ll be in the schools through my education program. I’m definitely looking forward to visiting my old kids. That was the most fun thing I did last year.

Favorite Movie?
I have two or three in different genres. Wall E is my favorite kids’ movie. I, Robot is my favorite action movie. Hitch is my favorite hopeless romantic movie.

Favorite TV Show?
Psych. I love psych, so I dressed like Shawn Spencer today. My little sister was the one who got me hooked on it. My roommate and I had orientation at the education building and dressed like the characters on the show– he’s dressed like Gus in slacks and dress shoes and a polo. I took a more laid back approach with jeans and a short sleeve button up.