A month later Benson was arrested in Austin at 2 a.m. on suspicion of DWI after police said he ran a red light. Benson apologized publicly for "making the poor decision to drink and drive," but Jerry Angelo, the Chicago G.M., had had enough. Two days after the second arrest the Bears released Benson.
"For a small second it was a little emotional, but for the most part I was at ease," says Benson. "I knew I wasn't what they were making me out to be. I couldn't let that overcome my inner positive."
In late September 2008 a pair of Travis County grand juries decided not to indict Benson on either charge. A county attorney cited the lack of a field sobriety test or incriminating video evidence in the first incident; in the second he said a video recording at the time of the arrest showed that Benson appeared "very well." Four days after the grand jury rulings, the Bengals signed him.
"I'm not perfect, and I must assume responsibility because some of it was [a result of] my actions," says Benson, who still takes his boat out to Lake Travis when he's in Austin. "One of the officers comes up to me every time we go out there. He gave me his number and said if there's ever any issue, give him a call."
After Cincinnati's rout of the Bears—some dubbed it the Benson Bowl—the running back received a text message with an Austin area code, as he does after every game. It was from his old coach, Mack Brown, telling him his alma mater was watching and was proud.
"Sometimes everybody expects the star in college to walk into the NFL and be the same player," Brown says. "When some of these teams pick a Number 1 draft choice and it doesn't work out, there's responsibility everywhere. When you're a pro, your struggles are public. Cedric had some problems, and he moved on from them."
In the midst of his big game against Chicago, Benson was seen waving his arms to fire up the crowd at Paul Brown Stadium. Teammate Chad Ochocinco told him he'd see him in Miami—site of the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl this season. If Benson lands in either, his breakthrough will be complete.
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