Edgar Bennett had a wonderful, albeit short-lived, professional football career. His name will not come up in conversations that list the best running backs in football history, but Bennett nonetheless was a formidable runner who had a productive National Football League showing.
He rushed for 3,353 yards in 5 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the team for which he now serves as running backs coach.
He was Green Bay's leading rusher when the club won a Super Bowl in 1996, and in 1994 he set a team record for running backs with 78 receptions.
After an injury that ended his stint with the Packers, Bennett spent two seasons with the Bears, where he was slowed by a weak Achilles tendon and split time with Curtis Enis.
Before entering the league, Bennett started his career at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was a Class 4A All-State selection as a senior. He played his college ball at Florida State.
A lot has changed since he played at the varsity level, but Bennett says college scouts that evaluate prep players look for the same attributes they've always sought.
"You meet the kids and you kind of gauge where their minds are at," he explains. "You look at their strength and things like that to see if they can play."
Sadly, Bennett says he doesn't see a focus on fundamentals like he used to notice at the high school level. Today's kids are more talented than ever, but they too often hurt themselves by neglecting the basics.
"Make sure you stick with the fundamentals," he recommends. "For a running back, that doesn't just mean running downfield and running hard; it also means ball security and taking an active role in the passing game by either protecting the quarterback or catching passes."
Bennett says he realizes that many high school running backs are used solely for running the ball. Those who want to move on to the next level, he insists, need to expand their focus.
"Some guys at that level (high school) aren't asked to do much, but you need to be as versatile as you can," he says. "Ask a coach to stay with you after practice so you can work on catching passes. That's something I did when I was in high school. Even though we didn't throw the ball, my coach knew I needed those skills and he worked on them with me."
Of course, many varsity running backs are good with the ball in their hands. Often, though, the difference makers are those who do the little things that never show up on the scoreboard or in the next morning's newspaper.
"Running backs need to work on blocking," says Bennett, who was a tailback in high school before being moved to fullback at Florida State. "Work on both pass blocking and run blocking, because you never know if you're going to end up being a halfback or a fullback. You don't always end up being what you started out as."