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NFL's Bennett big on giving back

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, center, hosted a sports camp and family fitness clinic Saturday in Lower Brule. (Ryan Deal/Republic) 1 / 2
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett hosted a sports camp and family fitness clinic Saturday in Lower Brule. Ezekiel Skunk, 12, of Lower Brule received an autograph jersey from Bennett during the event. (Ryan Deal/Republic) 2 / 2

LOWER BRULE — Michael Bennett is all about giving back to the community — even if he's never been there before.

The Seattle Seahawks defensive end hosted a sports camp and family fitness clinic on Saturday in Lower Brule. It was Bennett's first trip to South Dakota and the Lower Brule Indian Reservation.

But that's why he wanted to host his camp at the isolated reservation on the western banks of the Missouri River in Central South Dakota.

"I always wanted to work with different groups," Bennett told the Daily Republic. "I believe in Intersectionality and that's the connection between different oppressed groups around the United States or around the world. I believe in connecting people and showing them we are not that different."

The event was part of his foundation's primary program called O.C.E.A.N., which stands for fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition.

"That is kind of what we bridge a lot of the gaps through because we know that a lot of the people in perverse areas, they lack food or lack the nutrition to understand about how important food is," Bennett said. "I try to bring that to them, but on top of that, we do a whole bunch of different things, working with a whole bunch of different sections from all walks of life."

Over 220 participants attended the camp, which included a health expo, a family health and fitness clinic and a high school fitness challenge. Bennett was late getting to the camp, but later spoke to the crowd, signed autographs and took pictures. Bennett was also presented a star quilt that featured navy and green—the Seahawks colors.

Tristan Fire Cloud helped organize the event and they hope to bring Bennett back to Lower Brule again in the future. Fire Cloud, who is originally from Lower Brule, and Bennett are brothers-in-law. Bennett's wife, Pele, is the sister of Fire Cloud's wife, Tusi.

Michael Bennett and Tristan Fire Cloud first talked about hosting a camp in Lower Brule a few years ago. They finally made it happen this year.

"I just want everybody here to see that he is not from a wealthy family," Fire Cloud said about Bennett. "He is from a low-income background and he made it. I want the kids to see that they have a chance at making it, too, as long as they keep doing what they love to do."

Fire Cloud, who now lives in California, said Bennett can serve as a role model to his home community. Bennett grew up in Texas and later played football at Texas A&M, but went undrafted. He's now entering his ninth NFL season. He's a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end and has played for the Seahawks since 2013, including winning Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos in 2014.

But Fire Cloud said Bennett is a down to earth person despite all the fame.

"He hasn't changed one bit," Fire Cloud said. "He still loves the community and he still wants to give back. That's why I am like 'This is the type of guy we need.' "

And despite it being his first trip to South Dakota, the people have left a big impression on the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Bennett.

"I see so many people in South Dakota that inspire me to be different and stand up for things I believe in," Bennett said. "There's so many people here that are like that. All the stuff they have been through and they are still kicking and breathing. It shows that resilience is everything."