Kyle Benkel, an biomedical sciences major and student at the Burnett Honors College, recently received one of UCF's most prestigious honors, the Order of Pegasus. He attributes his experience playing as a wide receiver for UCF's football team to providing him with the leadership and discipline necessary to achieve this honor. Upon graduation, Kyle aspires to become an orthopedic surgeon, helping fellow athletes with their injuries so that they can continue to play.

What does receiving the Order of Pegasus mean to you?

Being recognized as an Order of Pegasus recipient is the greatest honor I’ve ever received. UCF has always meant so much to me. I grew up dreaming of coming to UCF and playing football for the Knights, and now that I’ve achieved so much during my time here, I just hope that I’ve made a difference and inspired others to do the same. I am incredibly blessed to be given the most prestigious honor at UCF.

How did you achieve this honor?

When I was a freshman, I walked on to the football team. As a walk-on, I just followed the example of the veteran leaders on the team. As I gained more experience, I used what my role models taught me and became a leader in my own way. I may not have been the star of the team, but I embraced my role and helped them achieve UCF’s most successful years in football history. I also applied the lessons that I’ve learned from football in other areas of my life. I gave back to the community volunteering with the football team at Central Florida Dreamplex, playing football with children with different disabilities. In my academics, I pursued an Honors Undergraduate Thesis on bacteria that can degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Being able to achieve so much required an incredible amount of hard work and dedication. I think the key to achieving Order of Pegasus was striving for excellence in all the areas of my life.

What is your long-term goal, and how will the Order of Pegasus help you get there?

One of my long-term goals is to become an orthopedic surgeon and help athletes recover from injuries to get back on the field. I have already taken a big step to achieving this goal by getting into medical school at the UCF’s College of Medicine. Earning the honor of Order of Pegasus will help me reach the next step of my goal because I understand the rigor and effort it takes to achieve excellence. The Order of Pegasus also reminds me that I have the support of the UCF community behind me always pushing me to keep going to make everyone proud.

What advice do you have for others who may want to achieve the Order of Pegasus?

Go after your dreams. I truly believe that the key to success in anything is how hard you are willing to work. With enough hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything.

Do you have any favorite books or hobbies?

One of my favorite books is The Martian by Andy Weir. I love science fiction, and I’ve always been interested in space and astrophysics. This book was an amazing story that hit all my interests. I also love anything outdoors. Fishing is one of my favorite hobbies that allows me to relax, enjoy nature, and spend time with friends and family.