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No Rookie

Boise's NFL know-it-all teen


Andy Benoit isn't the kind of guy who sits around waiting for things to happen. He takes the initiative.

Boundaries aren't his thing, either. If they were, he wouldn't have recently become the youngest known author in history to produce and publish an NFL pre-season book that is so impressive it has earned accolades from top industry gurus like ESPN's Chris Berman and Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly. Sportscaster John Madden liked it so much that he has endorsed it, something he doesn't do everyday.

Benoit's preview is similar to traditionally market-dominant high rollers like Street & Smith's, Athlon and Lindy's. Berman describes it as one of the most comprehensive NFL preview magazines he's ever seen.

As a result, Benoit, who was in high school this time last year, has been inundated with requests for interviews, and the sports information industry is quickly becoming familiar with the name Andy Benoit.

"I'm busy, but it's not as bad as it sounds," Benoit said. "I definitely have things to do, but it's a good kind of busy."

All the attention is well deserved. The Boise High School graduate spent dozens of hours breaking down NFL game film, compiling research on players, offensive and defensive systems, and his corresponding thoughts on each. The book includes four pages of analysis on each of the 32 teams, including information on draft picks, free-agent activity, head-coaching jobs and even a section on NFL economics.

Benoit's father, Gary, has always believed in his son's abilities and was so impressed by the resulting product that he invested some of his own funds for self-publication.

"He worked very diligently to get where he is," said Gary Benoit. "We all worked at it. My part, aside from providing the monetary support, was more that of an editor, checking for grammar, spelling and making sure everything made sense."

This past summer, all the hard work finally paid off. And now, at 19 years old, Benoit has suddenly found himself the recipient of a lucrative deal with Ballantine Books, a subsidiary of Random House, and a full-ride scholarship to Washington State University. He leaves for school January 5.

Since publishing the 186-page Touchdown 2005 in early July, Benoit has been a guest on about 50 radio and four TV shows across the country, coupled with various newspapers and four magazines. Some of his bigger interviews have included CNN Headline News, Newsweek, The New Yorker and ABC Sports Radio.

If that weren't enough, the guys on ESPN's Cold Pizza have already interviewed him and think he's great. Hobnobbing at that level doesn't exactly guarantee anything, but it would seem that making friends at one of the country's largest sports media outlets couldn't hurt an aspiring analyst.

How did it all happen? Some factors you might expect like hard work, determination and perseverance all played their usual role, but so did raw talent, experience and even fate. It was a combination of all the right ingredients, at the right time, that has all but solidified the young prodigy's future.

Also in Benoit's corner are two parents who fully supported what essentially became a life-long project, one that started at a very early age.

"We knew he liked football before he could even talk," said Janet Benoit, Andy's mother. "He used to yell at us to stop the car when we drove by football practice at Boise High. I have video of him when he was 4, with his cousin's suit coat on, broadcasting a football game that was on the television. Growing up Andy always needed something to do. On family vacations he wanted to stay up half the night. He would keep track of all the [NFL] teams and players, so we encouraged him to write this information down. We were just looking for a way to settle him down so we could go to sleep."

Over time Benoit built a collection of tediously prepared notes that were eventually misplaced by his mother. As unfortunate as it seemed at the time, the situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, triggering the execution of an ambitious plan.

"I told him I would type everything out, if he just talked," Janet recalled. "When I told him that, I could see a light come on and he said, 'I have an idea.'"

That was the day the book was born. With his mother's typing and pictures he cut from other magazines, Benoit produced his first NFL preview at the tender age of 11. The book grew, almost exponentially.

"We just about killed each other by the end of the third year," Janet said, chuckling. "It just became so much material, and he wanted it a certain way. Finally, in the seventh grade, he took a computer class. Then he took full control and I was fired. That's when the book took a quantum leap forward."

Benoit has been writing an NFL preview every year since, and each year, it has become more detailed, offering a fresh perspective that breaks the standardized pattern of pre-season prognostication.

Through his efforts, Benoit seems to have broken another standardized cycle that dictates the human race punch a time clock every day, although he recognizes there is plenty of value in doing so.

"I'd rather work 12 hours for myself than six for someone else," he said. "I have higher expectations for myself than anyone else could. You have to learn from your superiors, pay your dues, but I'm not going to let that run my life. I don't want to have a 'regular' job, but at the same time, it's the things you don't like having to do that make you appreciate what you really want to do."

Although he doesn't need it--he receives regular royalty checks--Benoit holds a part-time job at the Boise Downtown YMCA. He's also taking classes at Boise State in order to jump-start his college education before leaving for college in Pullman, Washington.

The choice to hold off a semester at Washington State came in light of numerous interview obligations scheduled for this fall, as well as an evening television segment on KBCI Channel 2.

"He really is a normal guy for his age, but when it comes to his particular passion, he is very mature," Janet added. "He has a great business mind, too, and the discipline of a German general."