Freshman Tim Benford winner of 2008 Robert Hill Johnson Award

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Wide receiver Tim Benford has been voted by his Tennessee Tech football teammates as the winner of the prestigious Robert Hill Johnson Award, the first freshman to capture the honor in the 58-year history of the award.

Benford was recognized Saturday evening during the women’s basketball game in Eblen Center.

“Obviously, Tim had a really good year, and if he’ll continue to work hard the sky’s the limit for him,” said Golden Eagle head coach Watson Brown. “He’s very competitive all the time and he’s a tough-minded kid. He led by example by what he did on the field, and the competitive way that he played.”

A 6-foot-3, 190-pound speedster from Chattanooga, Benford was named the OVC Freshman of the Year in 2008. He set one school record and tied another in his rookie season, making 68 catches for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns. He broke the previous school record for most catches in a season and tied the record for most TD catches.

His 782 receiving yards was the seventh-highest single-season in school history.

"We knew that Tim was a special kind of player, and each week he proved that on the football field," said Brown. "He has all the skills to be a great player for Tennessee Tech, and he also has the kind of work ethic that will only make him better."

The award was established in 1951, in memory of Robert Hill Johnson, a native of Sparta, Tenn. who was a student and assistant football coach at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute when he was killed in an auto accident on January 14, 1952, at the age of 22.

After just one season at TPI, Johnson was killed instantly when his car crashed into a concrete bridge railing at Cripple Creek, about seven miles east of Murfreesboro, on U.S. Highway 70.

The Jan. 25, 1952, edition of the Tennessee Tech Oracle said Johnson “exemplified all that is fine and good in the great game of football,” and urged that the university do something to honor his memory.

Since then, Tech’s highest football honor has been called the Robert Hill Johnson Award. It is presented annually by the family of Robert Hill Johnson, to the player who makes the largest contribution to Tech during the season and is selected by members of the football team.