Kalin Bennett is a true trailblazer. In November, he became the first person with autism to sign a national letter of intent to play a team sport at the Division I level.
Bennett, a 6’10”, 300-pound big man from Little Rock, Arkansas will play basketball at Kent State University next year, a truly remarkably accomplishment considering he didn’t say his first words until he was seven years old and was bullied throughout elementary school.
Thanks to his mother, whose “no limits” motto has been reinforced for 18 years, Bennett has been expected to work hard in school, on the basketball court and in the community. And, the adults in his life have been fully onboard.
“KB is like a second son to me, but I’m not going to treat him any differently just because he has autism,” head coach Adam Donyes told Overtime in a new short documentary that chronicles Bennett’s life as an athlete with autism. “That’s part of the reason why he’s made it as far as he has with his disability, because his mom hasn’t made any excuses for him, and I’m not going to make any excuses for him.”
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I JUST WANT TO TAKE A SECOND AND THANK YOU ALL FOR THE LOVE AND SUPPORT IN 2018 I HAD MY SHARES OF UPS AND DOWNS THIS YEAR GOD HAS HELPED ME GROW AND ME LEARN SO MANY THINGS THIS YEAR IM GRATEFUL FOR BEING ABLE TO MAKE HISTORY, IM GRATEFUL FOR ALL THE KIDS AND PARENTS THAT IM ABLE TO INSPIRE AND I WILL KEEP GETTING BETTER WHILE IN COLLEGE AND THE PROS(NBA) I JUST WANT TO ALSO THANK MY MOTHER AND FATHER AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE I ALSO WANT TO THANK COACH DONYES FOR BEING ONE OF MY BIGGEST SUPPORTERS AND LINK YEAR FOR HELPING ME IMPROVE EVERYDAY AND I WANT TO THANK THE FANS BUT I DON’T CONSIDER YALL FANS I CONSIDER YOU GUYS FAMILY THIS IS JUST THE START OF GODS PLAN IN 2019 and BEYOND I HOPE TO KEEP INSPIRING OTHERS AND LEAD THEM TOWARDS CHRIST ❤️
The film showcases Bennett’s daily victories and struggles at Link Year Prep junior college. For example, he’s applauded for his powerful Shark Tank-like classroom presentation as he says, “How can I empower these kids, or give them something to give them that confidence to just be themselves…I don’t see this [autism] as a disability. I see it as a new ability.”
The documentary also details how Bennett struggled with separation anxiety from his mother when he went to school.
Just as impressive as Bennett is on the basketball court, he also shines when it comes to expressing his perspective on autism.
“Everybody has their own thoughts on autism, but really, it’s just like an obstacle course,” he says. “Every path leads differently. There’s always a door you can go through to make yourself feel better about yourself.”
Who can’t root for an old soul like that?
The full film: