Keep an eye on: Benning Potoa'e

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Benning Potoa’e (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) punctuated his points by punching his hand.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end stood just inside the office of Lancers coach Dave Miller. He talked about setting an example. He talked about growing into a leader. He talked about putting in the offseason work to make himself, and his teammates, better football players.

“I’m not stepping back at all,” he said.

Because of his work ethic and leadership abilities, Miller named the sophomore an offseason captain.

Teammates look up to him. He walks the halls after school and rounds up players to join him in the weight room. If he sees someone getting into trouble, he steers him back on track.

“I’m trying to get people on board, get people to care so this year will turn out much better than the one that just passed,” Potoa’e said. “I’m not trying to wait until later.

“Football isn’t a one-man sport. It will be helpful for me to grow and help others, not just someone who worries about himself and tries to get mine.”

He sets a good example. It benefits the program.

“If I see them doing something wrong, I correct them,” he said. “Not only do I correct them, but I make sure I say something that will stick with them. I can say something, and it can go in one ear and out the other, so I try to talk to them on a friendly level. I’m just trying to reach them with love, show them this is right and this is wrong.”

Potoa’e said his second season went better than he expected personally. But the Lancers finished the year 5-5. He wasn’t satisfied with the way things ended. He wants to make the most of the next two years.

Each day spent working in the weight room gets Potoa’e and his teammates “steps closer.”

With his combination of size and athleticism, Potoa’e is one of the top 2015 prospects in Washington. He is already receiving plenty of Division I interest and should have his share of schools to pick from. But that isn’t what he is focused on right now.

“When I get any type of attention from a college, it’s something I’m thankful for, but it’s not something I hang my hat on or sit on,” he said. “I feel good about it, but it’s more of a motivation for me to get better. I don’t worry about that stuff. It’s good that it comes, but it’s not something I use to boost myself up.”