BOUNCING BACK: Former Huss star Bemah has overcome adversity to shine for Charlotte 49ers
By Richard Walker
When Prince Bemah first committed to play for former Charlotte 49ers head coach Brad Lambert during his senior year at Gastonia’s Hunter Huss High School in 2018, he was set to graduate early and hoped to make an immediate impact on the program.
While Bemah is currently one of Charlotte’s top tacklers, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker had had to endure unexpected changes and adversity to get this far.
Bemah endured an injury scare in the final game of the regular season – he sprained his right knee in Huss’ 46-0 win at crosstown rival Ashbrook – before Lambert was fired as 49ers’ head coach and Will Healy was hired.
Healy re-recruited Bemah and he remained committed to the Charlotte program upon graduating early from Huss.
And after having solid spring and preseason practices in 2019, Bemah had played in the 49ers’ first three games as a true freshman and thought he might be getting his first career start when Charlotte visited No. 1-ranked Clemson.
Instead, fate intervened.
“I had high hopes of starting that game and then we go to practice and I tear my ACL,” Bemah said. “That was tough.”
Bemah suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament in his left knee during practice drills before the Clemson game and missed the rest of the season that ended with the 49ers’ first-ever postseason bowl appearance – a 31-9 loss to Buffalo in the Bahamas’ Bowl.
Rehabbed and ready to play again, Bemah and his teammates had the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt 2020 spring practice.
Then it got even worse as Bemah suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while doing offseason training exercises before the abbreviated 2020 season that saw the 49ers go 2-4.
More rehab began and Bemah was ready and earned his first career start in the historic 31-28 season-opening home victory over Duke; It was the 49ers’ first win over a Power Five conference in their first home game against a Power Five conference.
But after starting the first three games, Bemah became a reserve and finished a 5-7 Charlotte season with 20 tackles in 11 games.
This past summer, fully healthy and no longer doing rehab, Bemah was excited about this season even as he knew the 49ers faced a daunting schedule.
“No matter what’s happened, I’ve stayed humble and kept working,” Bemah said. “After my surgeries and going a full offseason without rehab, I’ve been doing a whole lot to make sure I’m ready to play. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been going pretty good.”
Bemah has 15 tackles, one quarterback hurry and a tackle for loss in three starts.
“It’s good seeing Prince being back out there and be healthy and making a bunch of plays,” Healy said. “He’s so physical and such a good athlete and such a positive influence on our football game that it’s good to see him have success.”
Yet, while Bemah has had individual success, the team has struggled with only the second 0-3 start in the school’s 10-year football history.
“It’s all about practice,” Bemah said. “We’re working hard and we’ve been eager to correct our mistakes and work on everything. That’s what we need to do.”
Bemah and his teammates also are aware of the negativity that comes with a disappointing start.
Charlotte was just ranked No. 4 in the CBS Sports Bottom 25; Hawaii was No. 1, Colorado State No. 2 and Navy No. 3.
The good news is that five future opponents also are ranked among that dubious group; This week’s opponent (Georgia State) is No. 12, with upcoming opponents UTEP No. 13, FIU No. 14, Rice No. 18 and Middle Tennessee No. 22.
“We let the outsiders say what they want but don’t pay attention to all of the distractions,” Bemah said. “We all know adversity. Like in 2019, we were 2-4 and we overcame that adversity and advanced to a bowl game.
“Our staff are all about making us better and having us leave here as grown men. I’m getting a good experience here and I’m just eager to get better.”
Here is Charlotte’s full 2022 schedule:
Aug. 27 at Florida Atlantic (L 13-43)
Sept. 2 William & Mary (L 24-41)
Sept. 10 Maryland (L 21-56)
Sept. 17 at Georgia State, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 UTEP, 6 p.m.
Oct. 15 at UAB, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 22 FIU, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Rice, 2 p.m.
Nov. 5 Western Kentucky, Noon
Nov. 12 at Middle Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 Louisiana Tech, 3:30 p.m.