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Kurt Benkert: A tale of two arms – The Daily Progress

Posted in Tattoo Nightmares on Sep 02, 2017

The top of a Craftsman toolbox was flipped open to a black board decorated in weathered photos. The images ranged in shape and size, but the message was clear: Bruce Benkert never works alone.

The tattoo shop in Westminster, Maryland, was mostly empty on a Friday afternoon last October. The leather seat Benkert offers to customers was slightly reclined and vacant.

Benkert was providing ink of a different kind. As he spoke, a curious reporter was scribbling into a notebook with a blue BIC pen.

My very first tattoo was of my brother, Benkert said. I pretty much dedicate all my work to him.

Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert is named after his uncle.

The photo board was positioned in such a way that it could face Benkert as he operated. If he was needling on a customers left side, a quick glance forward could narrow his focus on the image of a shaggy-haired young man in faded jeans and a Harley-Davidson T-shirt.

The original Kurt John Benkert was a badass who had a soft side for kids. He was Mike Kuhnerts cool babysitter, the free-spirited one who showed off his knife collection and rarely enforced rules. He didnt play organized sports, but he would dominate his brother when the neighborhood got together for a football game.

He wasnt like a meathead, Bruce said, but he was strong.

On Dec. 14, 1994, Bruce told Kurt he was going to be an uncle. Bruce and his then-wife Theresa were expecting.

The Kurt John Benkert who will start at quarterback for Virginia on Saturday when it opens its season against William & Mary is plenty familiar with what happened Dec. 15, 1994. He never met his uncle, but he looks like him. He never heard his uncle speak, but hes sounded like him.

The right half of Bruce Benkerts black board features a photo cut in an oval shape of a shaggy-haired boy in a football jersey. Thats his son, the one with an NFL-quality right arm and a left arm marked in memory. At the bottom of the half-sleeve of tatts are the initials KJB adorned with a cross.

I never physically met him, Kurt Benkert said, but its weird how someone Ive never met has had such an impact on who I am.

Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert (right) and his father, Bruce, and his wedding last summer.

Bruce Benkert watched members of the Baltimore police department dig his brothers body out of Matt Greens basement.

Tremendous [mental] scars, he said.

Prior to Bruce delivering Kurt the uncle news, the brothers butted heads. Mike Kuhnert, Theresas son from a previous marriage who was living with his mom and stepfather at the time, remembered it as a disagreement about something.

Bruce, as he put it, visited Kurt on Dec. 14, 1994, to squash any BS. It served as their final time seeing one another.

Green killed both Kurt, 26, and Steve Santana, 31, a day later over a $225 drug debt, according to The Baltimore Sun. Police said the men had been shot to death and buried 4 to 5 feet under a dirt portion of the basement of the single-story frame house, read the newspapers account from Dec. 19.

Green was indicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on two counts of first degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of armed robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The gory details played out in real-time for Bruce and his family.

I was pretty much there for the whole description of everything, Kuhnert recalled. The guy shot them. Uncle Kurt was still alive and [Green] ran out of bullets, so he was using a knife. [Kurt] had wounds on his hands from protecting himself.

The guy had a hole dug, so it was premeditated. The windows were blacked out.

The one thing I do remember, I think what broke Bruce the most was him being there when they were dredging the hole when the body came out.

The times, Bruce said, became the darkest of his life.

I dont think anybody can imagine, said Theresa. I mean I had never been through anything like that. It was just the most horrifying nightmare.

On the morning of July 17, 1995, on what would have been Kurts 27th birthday, Bruce and a nine-months pregnant Theresa visited the gravesite. One life was over, but another was on the brink of beginning.

Theresa wanted her son to be named Travis. But when a check-up revealed the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and an emergency C-section became necessary, a new Kurt John Benkert was born.

If he wasnt born on that particular day, Bruce said, he probably would have had a different name.

Young Kurt was a godsend for his father. The two became inseparable. They hung out at the tattoo shop, threw footballs and rode four-wheelers.

When Kurt was 2, Bruce took him to one of his brothers favorite hunting spots, a wooded area in Baltimores Liberty Reservoir. Bruce, Kurt and Santana would come here every night after work.

The one trail, my tree stand was up top, Bruce said. It was almost like a triangle. A lot of times I stopped in the middle.

We were stopped and sitting there and my son looked up at me. His exact words were, When I was a big boy, me and you used to hunt here.

I dont believe in reincarnation, but that shook me to my core, he said. He was 2 years old! My brothers speaking through him, basically. I dont know how you want to interpret it, but that was his exact words. It just chilled me to the bone.

Theresa recalled several times when 2-year-old Kurt would sound mysteriously mature from his car seat.

He used to talk to us like he was an adult, she said. Hed turn around and say, When I get older I have to tell you something. But right now you cant handle it.

What he was foreshadowing remains anyones guess. All observers can attest to is Kurts mere presence turned his fathers life around.

I think it helped heal some of that tragedy because his dad was in a really bad place for a really long time, Kuhnert said.

It saved Bruces life, Theresa said. It really did.

Kurt Benkert, age 4, poses with his father Bruce in front of aninner-tube after he threw a football through the inner-tube as it moved three straight times. The accomplishment netted Benkert a box of Pokeman cards. “He did it three times in a row and no adult could do it. Not one adult could do what that kid did. It was a trip, Benkert’s Mother, Theresa, said.

Bruce Benkert, 50, played semi-pro football until he was 41. In the early days, he rarely came to the field without his observant tagalong.

If a padded Bruce was stretching, so did a diapered Kurt. If Bruce was squeezing in an ab workout, Kurt too was doing crunches.

He would get down and mock every exercise the team was doing, Theresa said. Hed sit at the fence and do sit-ups. These old people would film him doing this.

Football became an obsession for the Benkert boys, particularly after Kurt flashed early signs of greatness. He had a seminal moment at age 4.

We had an in-ground pool, Bruce said. And at the end of the pool we always had an inner-tube for him to throw to. One day we were having a cookout, and my buddy told Kurt, If you throw it through there, we’ll go get you a box of Pokemon cards. I was like, All right, but heres the kicker, were swinging a tire.

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Kurt left the cookout with three boxes of Pokemon cards. Bruce left the cookout $60 lighter.

We have a picture where Bruce is kneeling in front of a tire ring that was swinging, Theresa said. And theres one picture where Kurt holds up one finger, one where hes holding up two and then when we got to three. He did it three times in a row and no adult could do it. Not one adult could do what that kid did. It was a trip.

At age 11 and now a part of the Firecats Pop Warner program in Fort Myers, Florida, Kurt connected on a buzzer-beating 87-yard touchdown pass that has been played back some 31,800 times on YouTube.

Theresa was the videographer.

Kurt always had that rocket arm, said Firecats coach Hector Avila. When he first joined us, I remember our receivers complaining. Man, he throws so hard. We had to tell him sometimes in practice to take a little bit off of it.

Kurt Benkert last season became the first UVa quarterback in program history to complete passes of 80-plus yards in consecutive games. As he enters 2017, hes stayed on-brand.

Kurt has a rocket launcher attached to his arm, Cavalier senior receiver Andre Levrone said Monday. Its crazy. Ive never played with a guy who can throw the ball as far as he can.

The inside of Kurt Benkert’s left arm tattoo features a Spartan warrior.

Kurt Benkerts half-sleeve blends four different tattoos together a lion, a spartan, the Greek word for strength and KJB. The scripture verse Jeremiah 29:11 is inked along his ribs. July 2, 2016 the day he married his high school sweetheart, Sam is marked where his collarbone meets his shoulder.

All his art, authored by Bruce, is featured on the left side of his body.

I just dont think I can get past putting anything on this arm while Im throwing a football, Benkert said. I dont know, its just a weird thing for me.

His right arm, perhaps the limb most vital for UVas success this season, has remained clean. Its job is to help the Cavaliers strive for their first bowl game in six years. His left arm, perhaps the limb most noticeable to outsiders, remains busy. Its job is to keep adding touches to a compelling story.

Weve kind of been talking, Bruce Benkert said, were thinking of a father-son tattoo.

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Kurt Benkert: A tale of two arms – The Daily Progress

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