The Michael Bennett Appreciation Post

There are a few reasons I stopped buying jerseys. The main one was that every Vikings (or Wolves) player whose jersey I bought typically ended up leaving Minnesota the season after my purchase (instant throwback!). One example of that is my Michael Bennett.

Full disclosure: As those of you who follow my stuff know, I’m a big Big Ten homer. So, Bennett had been on my radar as he followed the amazing Ron Dayne at Wisconsin and couldn’t have been more of a polar opposite of the bruising Dayne (who was one of the best college running backs I’ve ever watched).

Bennett was pure speed, so much so that it was said he was fast enough to make it to the Olympics as a sprinter. He broke records as a junior in the 100m and 200m dashes at Wisconsin, and when asked about the 2000 Olympics by ESPN’s John Clayton, said:

“Right now, I’m a 10-flat in the 100,” Bennett said. “I’m a little heavier than I would run in a meet. I’m about 210. Normally, I would run at 205. You look at the trials and third place was 10.02. My fastest would have automatically put me in there.”

You get a glimpse of his speed during college here (apologies for the 1970’s handcranked camera quality, keep in mind this is Wisconsin we’re talking about):

Bennett’s speed was a thing of lore, something that still exists as his Wikipedia says the following of his 40-yard dash time:

“ He was one of the fastest sprinters in college history clocking in a record 4.13 in the 40-yard dash, the second fastest in NFL history behind only Bo Jackson who ran a 4.12.”

Perhaps they mean his non-combine 40, as there are conflicting numbers depending on where you look. His Wiki also lists a 4.28 official time, but his says:

Either way, dude was fast. With the Vikings sorely missing the gazelle like speed of the retired too soon Robert Smith, Bennett was too similar to pass up with the 27th pick in the 2001 draft.

The 2001 season was a nightmare. The team was reeling from the training camp death of Korey Stringer, a day I’ll never forget as my high school hockey dry land training was cancelled because of the heat, and when I got into my car the rearview mirror on my windshield fell off because the glue actually melted.

Then there was the 2000 NFC Championship game in which the Vikings were decimated 41-0 against a very beatable Giants team. The Vikings lost both head coach Dennis Green and legendary receiver Cris Carter during or after that year, as well.

2002 was Bennett’s breakout (and only good) season. He tallied nearly 1,300 yards on the ground and also had 351 yards through the air from 37 catches. He had six total touchdowns that year. He also, IIRC, had three games in a row with a touchdown of OVER 70 yards, and NFL record.

Unfortunately injuries derailed what was a promising career, and then he made some poor choices and ended up receiving five hears in prison. He has opened up about his mental health during his time there, which could be the positive he needs from that negative experience to turn things around.

As someone who struggles with mental health issues myself, I do not judge anyone because I can’t imagine or fully empathize with their decisions because I am not them. But what I can say is that Bennett deserves more credit for what an amazing back he was at full strength/speed and how much fun it was to watch him and Randy Moss set the then astroturf on fire each week back when I was a lad.

If you’re too young to remember him, take a look at this highlight reel. I’ll just leave this at that and start taking offers for the aforementioned Bennett jersey in the comments.