Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea continues to add to his supporting cast, this time bringing back a Vanderbilt fan favorite in his latest round of hires.
Lea announced Monday he has hired former All-SEC receiver Earl Bennett as the Commodore program’s director of player development and Kaelene Curry as director of mental performance.
“Seldom are student-athletes afforded the opportunity to return to their respective institution to make an impact on and off the field,” Bennett said. “I am grateful for this opportunity as director of player development and believe in coach Lea’s leadership and vision for Vanderbilt’s football program.”
A third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Bennett played his entire six-year career with the Chicago Bears. He had 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns in 78 career games. His best season came in 2009 when he set career highs in receptions (54), yards (717) and targets (88).
At Vanderbilt, Bennett recorded 236 receptions, 2,852 yards and 20 touchdowns with three All-SEC selections. He left West End as the SEC’s leader in career receptions but has since been passed by fellow former Commodore Jordan Matthews, who had 262 receptions.
Bennett is still tied for the SEC record of five touchdown receptions in a game, and he was inducted into the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Earl was a great player here & now will serve as a critical bridge between our team & the long-term impact of this program,” Lea tweeted on Monday evening. “Earl's attention to the holistic development of our roster ensures that the player experience here is transformative.”
Curry spent six years as a mental performance coach for the Selking Performance Group. She worked one season as the head softball coach at Northern Colorado in 2017 before moving onto the college counseling center, and was an assistant softball coach for two seasons at Sonoma State.
Curry has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in sport and performance psychology. She was a licensed counselor in Colorado.
“The addition of Kaelene puts our program on the cutting edge when it comes to mental performance training & developing the competitive mindset,” Lea said. “She will be a great resource as our players navigate the challenges of life in college football.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_