The Making Of Arrelious BennJuly 20th, 2010
Always working to give Bucs fans fresh, unique daily content, when others aren’t nearly as dedicated as the final days before training camp drag on, Joe spoke with Bob Asmussen of the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette, who is the paper’s primary beat writer covering the University of Illinois. Joe reached out to him to get some background on Bucs rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn.
Here is Asmussen’s perspective on Benn:
JoeBucsFan: West-Central Florida isn’t much of a hotbed of Illini football and Illinois isn’t seen much on local TV sets outside of sporadic games on the Big Ten Network, especially after the Rose Bowl appearance two years ago. What made Benn such a special talent for the Illini?
Bob Asmussen: A couple of things. First, he worked harder than anybody. Just look at him physically. You don’t get to be like that without a lot of time running, lifting and catching passes. Plus, he eats about as well as any football player I’ve come in contact with. When your best player is also your hardest worker that’s a great thing.
Second, he is extremely confident in his own ability, but isn’t a jerk about it. He basically thinks he will make every play and does it in such a convincing manner that you start to believe it too.
Joe: Was there a particular play or a specific game that you watched Benn play at Illinois and first thought to yourself, “Wow, this guy’s going to get paid to play on Sundays?”
Bob: Easy, freshman year against Penn State. First, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And later in the game, he had a spectacular catch and run for a touchdown, breaking away from several Penn State defenders. That play, to me, was his best at Illinois.
The first time I saw him on the Illinois campus was at a camp before his senior year in high school. He was catching everything and I turned to somebody and said, “That’s Jerry Rice.” Now, of course, that’s a stretch, but he was better than any receiver Illinois had at the time. Not even close.
Joe: You stated previously you got to know Benn and his family pretty well. Can you flush out some of the details about what kind of a background he came from?
Bob: It’s interesting. His mom, Denise Benn, is a wonderful person. She is one of the nicer parents I’ve dealt with during my time covering Illinois. And she hasn’t had an easy life. Arrelious’ older brother, Trulon Henry, spent part of Benn’s childhood in federal prison for armed robbery. The family is very open about it and Trulon has turned his life around. In fact, he will likely be a starting safety for Illinois this season after spending two years at a Chicago-area junior college. The brothers are very close and I think Trulon’s comeback has been inspiring to Arrelious.
Trulon was excited when he heard Arrelious was going to the Bucs. He thinks that’s a great fit.
Joe: What is it on a personal level that may impress you about Benn or something that not many people may know? Is he a leader by vocal commands, or is he a leader by example? Is he just a lunchpail kind of a guy or is he flamboyant at all?
Bob: He leads by example, but got more vocal later in his career. I think that’s pretty normal. He is a lunchpail guy who can be flamboyant. But not too much. Mom and his brother wouldn’t stand for it. He is very mature for his age, which probably is due in part to the difficult background. I thought he seemed like an adult as a freshman. He is easy to talk to and always has a smile. But he is also very self-critical. When he has a bad game and the team loses, you can tell that it hurts.
Joe: From your research and knowledge and insight, how would you project Benn to be as an NFL wide receiver, say, five years down the road? What trait does he have that suggests he will be a survivor or a stud in the league?
Bob: I think he has a chance to be an All-Pro. He has the physical skills and the mental makeup. And he is tough, playing through injuries during his Illinois career. I think he will get better. I’m guessing he will have the usual growing pains his first season, then blossom as a second-year player. You see that so often with receivers in the NFL. Once he gets going, he can be a 100-catch guy if that’s what the Bucs want to do with him. I’d think he is much more likely be a star than he is to be a bust.