Substance over style worked wonders for Edgar Bennett

Running back produced in any and all situations for '90s Packers

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Former Packers RB Edgar Bennett

Team historian Cliff Christl has been writing the official biographies of the members of the Packers Hall of Fame. Those bios will be posted periodically on packers.com.

Edgar Bennett

  • Inducted: 2005
  • Running Back: 1992-96
  • Height: 6-0; Weight: 223
  • College: Florida State, 1987, '89-91

Edgar Bennett was made for the Green Bay Packers, the once natural grass of Lambeau Field and coach Mike Holmgren's offense. It was the one place in the National Football League where Bennett could thrive as more a packhorse than a thoroughbred and as a back who was far more dependable than flashy.

To put it simply, Bennett relied more on his balance, brains and heart than any showstopping physical skills. But his modest talents were of immeasurable worth when Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf resurrected the Packers in the 1990s. "In key situations, he performs," was how Wolf summed up Bennett's value. "When Brett Favre turns to hand the ball to 34, 34's always there."

Or as Harry Sydney, Packers running backs coach from 1995-99, more graphically put it after Bennett's third season: "You've got a lot of Porsches out there that are fine until the weather gets bad and they're slipping and sliding. You get a 4-by-4 like Edgar, they go in rain, hail, sleet or snow."

Selected in the fourth round of the 1992 NFL Draft, Bennett played fullback his first three years, then running back his last two. As a fullback, he was a threat as a runner and receiver, not just a blocker, and the Packers took full advantage of it. In his two years as the starting fullback, he finished second in rushing in 1993 with 550 yards and led the team the next year with 623 yards, although that season he also was used in one-back formations. As a receiver, Bennett finished second in receptions to Sterling Sharpe both years, combining for 137 catches. However, at 222 pounds, Bennett had limitations as a lead blocker taking on bigger linebackers and that was becoming the main trait teams were looking for in a fullback.

"He's not a halfback or an I-fullback," running backs coach Gil Haskell said before the 1994 season. "But Edgar's for real in this system. You trade him some place and they'd say, 'How'd that guy ever play?' But Edgar had a very, very good year."

In 1995, Bennett moved to running back and led the Packers in rushing with 1,067 yards and, again, finished second in receiving with 61 catches and a much improved 10.6 average. Most noteworthy was that Bennett became the Packers' first 1,000-yard rusher in 17 years or since Terdell Middleton in 1978. Still, Bennett lacked the speed and wiggle of most marquee backs, despite losing close to 10 pounds.

Bennett repeated as the Packers' rushing leader in 1996 and while his numbers were down, he and fellow backs Dorsey Levens and William Henderson each found their niche as the Packers finished with an NFC-best 13-3 record. Henderson replaced Levens at fullback, and Levens, in turn, shared playing time with Bennett at running back.

By the end of the season, Holmgren had reworked his offense so Bennett was playing almost entirely in two-back and two-tight end formations, while Levens replaced him in single back, and three- and four-wide receiver sets. The end result was that the Packers finished 11th in the NFL in rushing – they hadn't ranked higher since 1972 when they finished seventh – and won their first Super Bowl in 29 years.

Playing in a daylong rain and a muddy swamp in the NFC Divisional playoff at Lambeau Field, Bennett led the Packers with 80 yards rushing on 17 attempts and also scored two touchdowns in a 35-14 trouncing of San Francisco. A week later on a 3-degree day and a hardened field, Bennett again led the Packers with 99 yards on 25 carries to crush Carolina, 30-13, for the NFC championship. Levens added 88 yards rushing on 10 carries and 117 yards on five receptions.

Those two games were arguably the most memorable of Bennett's five seasons in Green Bay, although another high point was his 105-yard rushing and three-touchdown performance on a spooky Halloween night – thanks to a torrential wind-swept rain off the lake at Soldier Field – that resulted in a 33-6 victory over Chicago.

As for Bennett's most memorable play, it might have been his 31-yard reception against Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field in 1995 when he soared five yards in the air to make a diving catch of a Brett Favre pass down the sideline. Wolf, who spent nearly 40 years in the NFL evaluating talent and watching countless college football games, called it "the most amazing catch I think I've ever seen in my life."

In 1997, Bennett tore his Achilles tendon in the preseason opener and missed the entire season. A year later, he was granted free agency and signed with Chicago, where he played two more seasons.

In his five seasons with the Packers, Bennett played in 80 regular-season games and started 62. He rushed for 3,353 yards, averaging 3.6 per carry, and caught 242 passes, averaging 7.9 per reception. He also appeared in and started 10 playoff games, rushing for a combined 561 yards and catching 31 passes.

Maybe the most impressive statistic of all was that Bennett handled the ball 1,178 times – 936 rushes and 242 receptions – and lost only three fumbles.

Bennett returned to the Packers in 2001 as director of player programs and then held the title of director of player development over the next three years. Thereafter, he became an assistant coach with the Packers for 13 seasons. He was running backs coach from 2005-10; wide receivers coach, 2011-14; and offensive coordinator, 2015-17.

Born Feb. 15, 1969. Given name Edgar Bennett III.

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