Drew's dream come true
Bennett about to cash in thanks to weak WR pool
Posted: Wednesday February 28, 2007 6:37PM; Updated: Wednesday February 28, 2007 6:37PM
LAS VEGAS -- Placing a fat stack of $100 chips onto the blackjack table at the Mandalay Bay Casino early last Thursday morning, Drew Bennett smiled at Shirley, the silver-haired dealer with a severe game face, and posed a playful question.
"Shirley, if I win this hand, can I have a purple chip?"
The dealer cracked a smile, if ever so briefly -- perhaps because Bennett's aw-shucks tone so perfectly matched his boyish grin. Were he not 6-foot-5 and in the company of a very grown-up woman, girlfriend Heather Hudson, Bennett might have been asked to show ID.
Three hits, a hard-earned 18 and a dealer bust later, the 28-year-old Titans wideout had his $1,000 purple chip -- one of several I saw him pocket during a 48-hour run of post-NBA-All-Star-Game merriment in Sin City.
This is not to say that Bennett, who has spent his entire six-year career with Tennessee, particularly needed the cash. In a free-agent market short on big names but long on salary-cap space, this deceptively dangerous receiver should, sometime after the start of free agency at midnight Friday morning, pull down one of the NFL's most lucrative hauls. Along with the Eagles' Donte' Stallworth, the Rams' Kevin Curtis and the Falcons' Ashley Lelie, Bennett is one of the few available free agents who might provide an immediate boost to a team's passing game -- and he's certainly the most productive of the bunch.
Put it this way: With apologies to Bennett's trouble-prone Titans teammate, Adam (Pac-Man) Jones, some NFL team will soon be "making it rain" for a player who, coming out of college, very nearly got left out in the cold.
Bennett's unlikely road to riches began at Miramonte High in Orinda, Calif., a few miles from Cal -- one of many schools that chose not to recruit the skinny, All-League quarterback. He walked on at UCLA and started three of the Bruins' first four games as a junior before finding himself buried on the depth chart behind a pair of freshmen. That triggered a move to receiver before his senior season, during which he caught a whopping six passes.
Hoping to sneak into an NFL training camp, Bennett attended a Pro Day at Cal for Bay Area players, went through drills with the other quarterbacks and, he recalls, "basically got ignored." He tried again at UCLA's Pro Day -- as a receiver -- and waited for the phone not to ring. To Bennett's astonishment, it did -- once -- shortly after the draft's conclusion. It was a coach from the Titans, offering Bennett a shot as a rookie free agent.
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