Top 25 Players in AFL History: #23 Ben Bennett
March 22, 2012 - Arena Football League (AFL) News Release
CHICAGO - Continuing its countdown of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History, the Silver Anniversary Committee has announced its selection for the 23rd Greatest Player in AFL History: Ben Bennett.
A standout at Duke University, Bennett finished his collegiate career as the NCAA's all-time leader in passes attempted, passes completed and passing yardage, surpassing the likes of John Elway and Jim McMahon. He was the first quarterback protégé of then-Offensive Coordinator Steve Spurrier and thrived in Spurrier's "Fun & Gun" offense, setting seven NCAA, 15 ACC and 42 school records while at Duke.
Upon graduation, the Atlanta Falcons selected Bennett in the sixth round of the 1984 NFL Draft. He bounced around NFL training camps for the next four seasons before finding his niche in Arena Football.
The Chicago Bruisers signed Bennett for the 1988 season and it became clear almost immediately that the former Blue Devil had found his calling. Bennett passed for 2,304 yards and 49 touchdowns in his rookie season en route to being named the League's MVP and leading the Bruisers to the franchise's only ArenaBowl appearance, a 24-13 loss to the Detroit Drive.
His performance in the AFL caught the attention of the Chicago Bears, who picked up Bennett for a pair of games following the 1988 AFL season, but the quarterback would return to the Bruisers the next year.
In 1990, Bennett signed with the Dallas Texans, appearing in all eight games and leading the team to ArenaBowl IV. Though Bennett was once again bested by the Drive in the championship game, he earned Second-Team All-Arena honors for the season and solidified himself as a franchise Arena Football quarterback.
The following year, the expansion Orlando Predators signed Bennett to be just that. In an abbreviated first year with the team in 1991, Bennett passed for 540 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. However, in 1992, aided by rookie Ironman Barry Wagner, Bennett got back on track with 2,092 yards through the air to go with 41 touchdown passes.
Perhaps Bennett's most memorable highlight came that season in what became known as Barry Wagner's "Miracle Minute." In a June 19, 1992 game against the Detroit Drive, Bennett tossed two touchdown passes and a pair of two-point conversions to Wagner in the final 49 seconds of regulation to help complete a historic comeback and give the Preds a 43-42 win. Detroit would have its vengeance later that season, however, as the Drive defeated Bennett in the ArenaBowl for a third time. Bennett passed for 226 yards and four scores in the game.
Bennett was named First-Team All-Arena in 1993 and 1994 and would lead the Predators to two more ArenaBowl appearances in 1994 and 1995, but was never able to come away with the trophy. He spent the 1996 AFL season with the San Jose SaberCats before retiring in 1997, following a year with the Portland Forest Dragons.
For his career, Bennett finished with 14,169 yards and 267 touchdown passes and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2000. He is the only quarterback in AFL history to lead three different teams to the ArenaBowl. Bennett played in a total of five championship games in his career and ranks third all-time in ArenaBowl history with 126 career passing attempts in the title game. Since retiring, Bennett has turned to coaching, most recently serving as Offensive Coordinator for the New Orleans VooDoo during the 2011 season.
The League's Silver Anniversary Committee will continue to countdown its list of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History each week throughout the 2012 regular season, with the announcements of the Top 5 during the postseason.
25 Greatest Players in AFL History
25. Gary Mullen
24. Clevan Thomas
23. Ben Bennett
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