Just the mention of the nice, round number – 20 years – brings raised eyebrows of disbelief to Edgar Bennett’s face.
“Wow, … wow,” he said. “Time flies.”
Indeed it does. Even the most ardent Green Bay followers might be taken aback to learn that next month will mark 20 years since the Packers drafted Bennett, a fourth-round pick out of Florida State.
But what makes the passage of time in this case somewhat hard to fathom is the same thing that has made it so special. Other than two seasons during which he ended his playing career in Chicago, Bennett has been with the Packers all along.
He’s employed in his fourth “job” with the organization, so to speak. The nearly two-decade run as a running back, director of player development, running backs coach and now wide receivers coach has seen him earn two Super Bowl rings, get inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and coach a handful of record-setting players, among several other indelible memories.
“I’ve certainly been blessed and fortunate to be a part of all this,” Bennett said. “One thing you try to take from it is you try to enjoy the moment, because you never really know how long it’s going to last. I hope I’m not done yet.”
Bennett candidly confesses he never envisioned when he was drafted 20 years ago that he’d continue to walk the halls of Lambeau Field today. Back then, the Florida native was more concerned about adjusting to life in Wisconsin, but fortunately he had former high school and Florida State teammate LeRoy Butler here to help with the transition.
Five seasons later, Bennett was a Super Bowl champion with the seventh-most rushing yards in the storied history of the franchise. He already had a significant place in Packers history.
“You sensed the importance of football here right away,” said Bennett, who’s now 10th on the team’s all-time rushing list. “Transitioning into an elite team and being a part of what that meant was truly unique.”
Bennett began his playing career with one overriding goal, to prove himself and make the most of every opportunity, and he has carried that mentality with him each step of the way.
When he left as a free agent for Chicago – which he admitted was difficult – after missing the entire 1997 season due to injury, he wanted to prove he could still play. When former coach Mike Sherman reached out to bring him back to Green Bay as director of player development in 2001, he wanted to “provide something to help the cause,” and that evolved into a position on the coaching staff with the help of a valuable mentor in then-running backs coach Sylvester Croom.
After retiring as a player, Bennett was grateful for the chance to stay around the game, and to regain the camaraderie and competitive outlet that can be so hard for professional athletes to replace.
He’s equally grateful to Head Coach Mike McCarthy for keeping him on the coaching staff in 2006, and for trusting him with the position switch to wide receivers last year.
“I have to thank Coach Mike for giving me that opportunity to continue to grow, and to also give me a chance to prove myself once again,” Bennett said. “I want to continue to learn. My ambitions are to continue to do more, and one day, be more.”
Without mentioning it specifically, Bennett knows that next step will be to rise to the level of offensive coordinator. There’s no telling whether that chance will come with the Packers at some point, or if it will eventually require another difficult departure from Green Bay.
Either way, Bennett isn’t concerned about that now, and he’ll have plenty of fond years with the Packers to look back upon no matter what the future holds. For now, he’s enjoying every day he’s here as much as he did 20 years ago, no matter how hard that nice, round number is to grasp.
“What I’ve learned over these 20 years is I’m in a great situation with a great organization,” he said. “I love coming to work every day and being part of this tradition and history. I want to continue to be a part of this, to be part of something special and unique. I enjoy where I work. There’s nothing like it.”