When his workouts with Ka’Deem Carey started more than a month ago, eighth-grader Jaxson Banhie (pronounced bahn-yay) was trying to work his way into shape after missing significant time with a broken left hand suffered in December.
The hand injury occurred when he was in Orlando, Fla., with the Tucson Youth Football 14U All-Star team playing in the national tournament. His workouts were limited since then because of the broken hand, which took two to three months to heal.
Banhie’s mom Jess became aware of the opportunity to train with Carey by reading a Facebook post published by Carey’s wife Missy. It detailed the “Team Ka’Deem” workouts for youths locally.
Banhie, bound for Salpointe this fall, recalls the difficulty at first attempting to do the arduous drills with Carey, a former Canyon del Oro High School and Arizona star running back who played in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and is now in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders.
“The first (workout) … I don’t even think I was able to finish all the things,” said Banhie, who attends Mansfeld Middle School. “Since then, I’ve been able to do it. It’s still pretty hard though, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve still been able to finish them now.”
The drills include short sprints uphill, hand-to-eye coordination trying to grab a ball thrown in a random direction by Carey finished with a sprint, bursts coming out of a stance, agility maneuvers around cones, footwork speed exercises capped with catching a football, and attempting to run while pulling the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Carey with an elastic rope tied around his torso.
Banhie believes he has matured as an athlete physically and mentally in the brief time he has been under the tutelage of Carey, who also trains a handful of other Tucson-area youths. The training sessions, which last an hour to two hours, are every Sunday. He is slated to train with Carey until next month, when Carey will prepare to go to Calgary if the CFL season is still played depending on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carey, 27, signed a one-year extension through the 2021 season after leading the Stampeders with 422 yards on 75 rushes with two touchdowns through eight games in his rookie 2019 season. He also had 15 catches for 134 yards and one touchdown.
Banhie has taken part in workouts with Carey before at camps in Tucson, but those were nothing like this. He has Carey’s undivided attention. Not too many 14-year-olds can say they line up alongside a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year winner who is the career rushing leader at Arizona with 4,239 yards from 2011 to 2013.
When asked how he has benefited the most from the Carey workouts, Banhie said, “I think it’s like everything intertwined, like arms, legs. It’s a lot of one-on-one drills and it’s repetitive with just me going instead of a whole line of people going.”
Carey is still playing football, which means something to how Banhie perceives him during the training sessions. He is not a coach who played long before Banhie was born. Banhie feels more of a connection with Carey because of that dynamic.
“He already knows what kids are going through at current times,” Banhie said. “He knows that during the offseason kids are not in shape because they have done this or this, and he knows I broke my hand, so when I’m resting after a rep and we go four reps in a row, and it’s a lot of work, he talks to me.
“He talks to me a lot about getting a second wind, which is like after you’re tired and you know you’re tired, your body just gives you that extra push to finish that last rep.”
With COVID-19 forcing the closure of schools for the remainder of the year, Banhie is not able to work out in large groups with other players. He can’t go to a weight room or a gym.
He believes his weekly activity with Carey over a two-month stretch will give him an advantage over others when he starts practicing with the Lancers in early August.
The coaching change after Dennis Bene resigned from Salpointe has not altered Bahnie’s mind to attend the school and play with the Lancers. Todd Schulte briefly replaced Bene before stepping down. Eric Rogers, 14 years at Salpointe as a varsity assistant and head coach of the junior varsity and freshman teams, will be the head coach. Bahnie still looks forward to being in the Salpointe backfield despite the big shadow left behind by Texas-bound running back Bijan Robinson. Bahnie plans to wear Robinson’s uniform No. 5.
“I met the coach and Bijan at the same time, so I’m pretty confident in the coach and how he’s going to handle everything,” Bahnie said. “The players that I’ve seen around, and I know a couple other players too, they played on the 7-on-7 team with me, so I’m pretty confident in it and I’m pretty excited about the season.”
As arduous as the physical drills have been with Carey, the anguish over not being able to go to classes at Mansfeld because of the coronavirus pandemic is equally taxing on Banhie. Mansfeld is equipped with iPads funded by a grant from Verizon to do classwork, but the idea of taking classes at home, where he normally relaxes or plays video games, is not an easy adjustment.
“It’s different because you have to manage your time right, instead of wasting time and messing around,” he said. “When I’m home, I am not used to being like, work, work, work … school work all the time. I’m used to just chilling and football and stuff like that.”
He also said, “I’m completing my work, I’d just rather be at normal school.”
Until that time comes again at Salpointe in August, Banhie will continue his schooling online and with Carey in the Team Ka’Deem training sessions.
If you want to inquire about Carey’s workouts for youths, e-mail him at email@example.com.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.