In honor of Valentine’s Day, BelmontBruins.com will be posting special versions of our Student-Athlete Alumni Spotlight Series. These special articles, which will be posted over the next few days, will profile couples made up of former Belmont student-athletes.
Our first couple profile is Benny and Marilou Proffitt. Benny played basketball for Belmont from 1968-1972 and is one of 42 men’s basketball players to score 1,000 career points (1,170), while Marilou was a member of the Belmont Cheerleaders for two years. In addition, their son, B.J., played basketball for the Bruins from 1998-2002. They recently spoke to BelmontBruins.com about their time at Belmont, their careers, and family.
Why did you choose Belmont?
Marilou: First and foremost because it was a private Christian college and I wanted to be a part of an atmosphere that would encourage my faith in God. I grew up in So. Illinois and was ready to be away from home, but yet not too far away. Loved Nashville too.
Benny: My high school coach was Ron Bargatze, a former Belmont player, and Steve Hewlett, now a BU Trustee, both encouraged me to play for Belmont.
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
Marilou: Cheerleaders only cheered at home games, but the squad decided to skip class, jump in a car, and travel to the Lemoyne-Owen game in Memphis and we won the game. That ride home was tough though!
Benny: My roommate was Joe Gaines, the first black athlete to play for Belmont. He was a great player and playing with him for 4 years made our team exciting and successful.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont?
Marilou: Since we did not have a coach, I would say Betty Wiseman. She was a great role model for all student athletes. One of my roommates at Belmont was Judy Kraft who played on the women’s basketball team.
Benny: Playing at the college level was a dream of mine and being at Belmont gave me the opportunity to grow as an individual and as a Christian so I am indebted to many people at Belmont
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Belmont?
Marilou: Lifetime friendships and being prepared for my teaching career.
Benny: I learned to dream even big dreams while I was at Belmont and I was encouraged to make a difference in the world by a few people who became a big part of my life until now.
What advice would you give to current members of the cheerleaders and basketball teams?
Marilou: Be careful! Cheerleading has changed a lot since the 70’s. We did lots of tumbling…..but not all the stunts with the guys. You all are amazing.
Benny: Obviously the challenges, discipline, and opportunities that come with being a college athlete can help you mature as a person. It is a great opportunity to have a positive influence on others. Dedicate your time at Belmont to find God’s purpose for your life and learn to set and keep the right priorities for rest of your life.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
Marilou: Dr. Mike Awalt – He stretched my thinking through critical analysis in Old and New Testament.
Benny: Coach Betty Wiseman was new at Belmont but was already having a great influence on young people. I have stood in that line for a long time, 46 years, of those she has impacted greatly.
Where do you live now?
Marilou and Benny: We have lived south of Nashville in Williamson County the last 21 years. In Brentwood for 16 years and now in Thompson Station for five years.
What is your occupation?
Marilou: I just retired from teaching in 2015 from Brentwood Middle School as a 6th Grade World History teacher. Taught for 30 years in Dallas, TX, Birmingham, AL, and Brentwood, TN. I stayed home for 10 years while our children were young.
Benny: After working as a high school coach and youth pastor over 30 years, I founded a ministry called First Priority that equips students to live and share their faith while they are at school. I have had the opportunity to teach young people traveling to all 50 states and five continents. We just finished a full length feature film about Rachel Scott, a young girl who was murdered in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. The movie “I’m Not Ashamed” will be released in theaters this August. Please come see it!!!
Tell us about your family.
Marilou and Benny: We have been married for 42 years, have three children and our ninth grandchild is arriving in March.
Daughter Shawndee – graduate of Samford University. She is married to Jason Lovoy and they live in Birmingham, AL. They have four children and she is the Children’s Minister at Crosscreek Church.
Son BJ – graduate of Belmont University and Vanderbilt University. He played basketball at Belmont from 1998-2002 for Rick Byrd. He is married to Melissa Proffitt and they live in Franklin, TN. They have two children and he is a medical physicist in cancer treatment.
Son Joey – graduate of Samford University. He is married to Jackie Proffitt. They live in Thompson Station, TN. They are expecting their third child due in March and he works for Infomedia, a web site development company.
Tell us how you met your spouse at Belmont.
Marilou: We met at a freshman mixer! Benny was a junior, but he was working the event……or just checking out the new freshman girls!! We started dating soon, engaged my sophomore year, and married the summer before my senior year.
Benny: I met Marilou, now my wife of 42 years, at the beginning of my junior year. I saw this cute little freshman walking across campus in a mini skirt and my heart slipped a few beats. After chasing her for a few months, she finally caught me. It was fun having your future wife on the sideline cheering for you. One thing that has definitely changed since then is the cheerleaders’ skirts were long and the player pants were short.
What dating advice would you give to Belmont student-athletes?
Marilou: Look for that person who shares your beliefs. Also look for someone who challenges you to be the person God created you to be. It’s fun having someone who enjoys the things you enjoy.
We both loved and still love basketball. We always enjoy coming to the Belmont games!!
Benny: Big decision that will impact your life every day. Everyone is hoping for and looking for the right person to marry and share life with. Spend more of your time becoming the right person and your chances of finding the right person will go up tremendously.