Darren Bennett (football player)

Last updated

Darren Bennett (born 9 January 1965) is a former Australian rules football player and American football punter in the National Football League.

Contents

As an Australian rules footballer, he played for East Fremantle in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) between 1982 and 1987 and then in the Australian Football League (AFL) for the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Football Club. He was most successful at Melbourne, where he was named as one of the club's 150 Heroes of the last 150 years, kicking 208 goals from just 74 games for the club.

As an American football player, following a three club career in the National Football League he is regarded as one of the greatest players of the 1990s and a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. [1]

This combination made him notable as arguably the most successful of the Australian sportsmen linked to professional American Football in history.

Australian rules football career

Bennett grew up in Perth, Western Australia where he began playing Australian rules football, first playing senior football with East Fremantle in the West Australian Football League. His career with the Sharks was severely affected by injuries to his knee, which kept him out for over a season during 1985 and 1986 – in the interim denying him a WAFL premiership. However, training with former star Harry Neesham allowed Bennett to be fit for the 1986 finals, [2] and in the second semi he became the first player ever to score ten goals in a WA(N)FL final. [3]

Darren Bennett
Personal information
Full name Darren Bennett
Date of birth (1965-01-09) 9 January 1965 (age 56)
Place of birth Sydney
Original team(s) East Fremantle
Draft No. 13, 1988 national draft
Height 196 cm (6 ft 5 in)
Weight 106 kg (234 lb)
Position(s) Forward
Playing career1
YearsClubGames (Goals)
1982–1987 East Fremantle 024 00(87)
1987 West Coast 04 00(7)
1989–1993 Melbourne 74 (208)
Total102 (302)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1993.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

As a consequence of his devastating late-1986 form, which included eleven goals in the last round against Claremont as well as his second semi effort, [4] Bennett was recruited to be a member of the West Coast Eagles' inaugural squad in 1987. A serious knee injury curtailed his career with the Eagles after four games. Released by the Eagles, at the end of the 1988 season, he was drafted by the Melbourne Demons with the 13th selection in the 1988 VFL Draft. In both 1989 (34 goals) and 1990 (87 goals) Bennett led the Demons' goal kicking.

Bennett was known for kicking long goals, torpedo punts and taking strong marks.

Bennett was regarded as one of Melbourne's finest players in the early 1990s. But injuries caught up with him, and he played just two games in 1993. After the season, Bennett quietly retired from the Australian Football League, having totaled 78 games and 215 goals.

Bennett participated in an exhibition match at SkyDome in Toronto in 1989; it is believed that he was first exposed to American football during that trip.

Statistics

[5]
Legend
 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
SeasonTeamNo.GamesTotalsAverages (per game)
GBKHDMTGBKHDMT
1987 West Coast 19475240241711.81.36.00.06.04.30.3
1988 West Coast 190
1989 Melbourne 1913343090271176962.62.36.92.19.05.30.5
1990 Melbourne 192387542013123213583.82.38.71.310.15.90.3
1991 Melbourne 192255371774622313222.51.78.02.110.16.00.1
1992 Melbourne 191428237613895472.01.65.40.96.43.90.5
1993 Melbourne 1924312214802.01.56.01.07.04.00.0
Career78215152580119699415242.81.97.41.59.05.30.3

NFL career

Darren Bennett
No. 2
Position: Punter
Career information
Undrafted: 1993
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Punts:836
Punting Yards:36,316
Punting Avg:43.4
Player stats at NFL.com

He married in 1993 and went on his honeymoon to California, where he contacted the coaching staff of the San Diego Chargers and asked for a tryout. He wound up impressing the Chargers sufficiently that he was placed on the team's practice squad for the 1994 season. [6] [7]

During the spring of 1995, the Chargers sent him to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, where he led the league in net punting average and earned all-league honours. That fall, he became the Chargers' regular punter. In his rookie season, he finished second in the NFL in punting average and made the AFC Pro Bowl team. He went on to establish himself as arguably the best punter in the NFL for the rest of the 1990s. Despite playing in the league for only half of that decade, he was named as the punter on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s. [1]

On 7 August 1999 Bennett returned home with his adoptive sport and took part in Australia's first American Bowl in Sydney's brand new Stadium Australia versus the Denver Broncos.

Bennett was named to another Pro Bowl team in 2000, and continued to be one of the league's leading punters well into the 21st century. Going into the 2004 season, he had averaged 43.8 yards per punt, averaged 27 punts per season inside the 20-yard-line, and had only three blocked punts in his career (one of which happened when the Chargers had only 10 men on the field). As a former Aussie rules player, and considerably larger than most specialist kickers in American football (6'5"/1.96 m, 235 lb/106.5 kg), he did not shy away from physical contact on special teams. This willingness to hit, rare among kickers, was never more evident than when he knocked an opposing punt returner out cold in his rookie season. In 2004, after 144 games for the Chargers, he signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings, where he spent one season until being injured in pre-season and then cut in September 2005. However, he was recalled by the team in December 2005, after starting punter Chris Kluwe (who had replaced him on the Vikings squad) was injured; Bennett was signed to a temporary contract. He played one game before being released by the Vikings, having made what was likely his final NFL appearance after 15 Vikings games and a total of 159 NFL games.

Bennett is also credited for the introduction into the NFL of the "Aussie Rules kick" or "Drop punt" as it is known in Australia. The technique was instrumental in the advancement of Australians into the NFL, and currently half of the punters in the NFL make use of the Aussie Rules punt in pooch-punt situations.

Bennett was named to the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team in 2009. [8] He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 2012, the first time the Chargers allowed fans to decide the newest member. [9] [10]

Personal

Bennett and his wife Rosemary reside in San Diego and became US citizens in 2010. They have two sons, one of whom suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Bennett is deeply involved with charities associated with that disease. [11]

Bennett coaches high school kickers and punters in San Diego and mentors High School, NCAA and NFL players. [12]

Related Research Articles

Norv Turner American football coach

Norval Turner is an American football coach in the National Football League (NFL). An offensive assistant for the majority of his assistant coaching career, he came to prominence as the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator during their consecutive Super Bowls victories in Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII. In addition to his assistant coaching, Turner served as the head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1994 to 2000, the Oakland Raiders from 2004 to 2005, and the San Diego Chargers from 2007 to 2012. Turner compiled 118 wins during his head coaching tenure, which are the most of an NFL head coach with a losing record. He is also the only NFL head coach with 100 wins to have a losing record.

Nate Kaeding American football placekicker

Nathaniel James Kaeding is an American former professional football player who was a placekicker in the National Football League (NFL). He played the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers and retired after the 2012 season.

Punter (football) Gridiron football special teams position

A punter (P) in gridiron football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Ben Graham (football player) Australian rules footballer, born 1973

Benjamin James Graham is a former professional Australian rules footballer turned professional American football punter of the National Football League, and is current Strategic Operations Manager of the Western Bulldogs.

The 1974 NFL season was the 55th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl IX when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings. Players held a strike from July 1 until August 10, prior to the regular season beginning; only one preseason game was canceled, and the preseason contests were held with all-rookie rosters.

Darren Sproles American football player

Darren Lee Sproles is an American football executive and former running back and return specialist who is currently a personnel consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Kansas State, where he is the all-time leading rusher, and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He also played for the New Orleans Saints and the Eagles.

Nick Novak America football kicker

Nicholas Ryan Novak is an American football placekicker who is a free agent. He was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He played college football at Maryland.

José Antonio Cortez is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. He played college football at Oregon State University. He is distinguished as being the first Salvadoran to play in the National Football League.

Mike Scifres American football punter

Michael T. Scifres is an American former professional football player who was a punter in the National Football League (NFL). He played the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers and is included on the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team.

Mat McBriar American football punter

Mat McBriar is an Australian former American football punter in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers. He played college football for the University of Hawaii.

Australian rules football in the United States is a fast-growing team and spectator sport which has been played domestically in the United States since 1996. There are numerous leagues around the country, a national championship, a national men's team, a national women's team and a national youth team. There are also women's teams, junior teams, modified Australian Football games and non-contact versions such as Footy 7s.

Charles John Priefer is an American former football coach who held a variety of defensive and special teams coaching positions at the college and professional levels of the sport, including 17 seasons in the National Football League (NFL).

Bryan Jeffrey Wagner is a former American football punter in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and San Diego Chargers. He played college football at California State University, Northridge.

1989 San Diego Chargers season NFL team season

The 1989 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 20th season in the National Football League (NFL), its 30th overall and the first season under head coach Dan Henning.

Ryan Mathews (American football) American football running back

Ryan Jefforey Mathews is a former American football running back. He played college football at Fresno State. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the first round, 12th overall, in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2011.

Josh Lambo American football placekicker

Joshua Gregory Lambo is an American football placekicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL). He was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and then signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 17, 2017. He played college football at Texas A&M and is a former professional soccer goalkeeper. Lambo is the third-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history behind Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker.

Steven Kent Crosby is an American former professional football coach and player. He spent 33 years in the National Football League (NFL)—3 as a player, 4 as a scout and 26 as a coach. Crosby was named the NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year with the San Diego Chargers in 2007.

The 2012 season was the San Diego Chargers' 43rd in the National Football League, their 53rd overall and their sixth and final season under head coach Norv Turner. The Chargers failed to improve on their 8–8 record from 2011 and missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season, resulting in Turner's firing on December 31, 2012. This was also the Chargers' first losing season since 2003 and the first losing season in the Philip Rivers era.

Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Fame Wikimedia list article

The Los Angeles Chargers are a professional American football team in the National Football League (NFL) based in the Los Angeles Area. The club began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL), and spent its first season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961. They returned to Los Angeles in 2017. The Chargers created their Hall of Fame in 1976. Eligible candidates for the Hall of Fame must have been retired for at least four seasons. Selections are made by a five-member committee chaired by Dean Spanos, Chargers vice-chairman. As of 1992, other committee members included Bob Breitbard, founder of the San Diego Hall of Champions; Ron Fowler, president of the Greater San Diego Sports Association; Jane Rappoport, president of the Charger Backers; and Bill Johnston, the team's director of public relations.

The 2014 season was the San Diego Chargers' 45th in the National Football League (NFL), their 55th overall and their second under head coach Mike McCoy. After former Chargers' offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was hired by the Tennessee Titans to become their new head coach, the Chargers promoted Frank Reich to replace him. Reich spent the 2013 season as the Chargers' quarterbacks coach.

References

  1. 1 2 NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s – SPECIAL TEAMS/COACHES
  2. Marsh, David; 'The Hard Work Brings Reward'; The West Australian , 8 September 1986, p. 76
  3. Atkinson, Graeme and Hanlon, Michael; 3AW Book of Footy Records: All the Great Players, Matches, Goals, Kicks, Brawls and Sensations from More Than 100 Years of Aussie Rules in Australia; p. 138. ISBN   1863210091
  4. Casellas, Ken; 'Sharks' Trio Wipe '85 Blues'; The West Australian, 25 August 1986, p. 80
  5. "Darren Bennett". AFL Tables. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  6. Sell, Dave (31 December 1995). "Thunder from down under". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  7. "Darren Bennett". San Diego Chargers. Archived from the original on 15 February 2004. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  8. "Chargers 50th anniversary team". The Press-Enterprise. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011.
  9. Gehlken, Michael (16 July 2012). "Fans to decide next Chargers Hall of Famer". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012.
  10. Gehlken, Michael (24 September 2012). "Darren Bennett voted into Chargers Hall of Fame". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012.
  11. "Duchenne San Diego: Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  12. Cagala, Tony. "From a chance tryout to a hall of famer, Bennett never imagined successes". Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2014.