An interesting article in todays HUN on now retired Darren Bennett -
Bennett goes out kicking
Homeward bound: Former Melbourne and West Coast forward Darren Bennett will soon return to Australia permanently after a succcessful career as a punter in the NFL.
DARREN Bennett's move home to Melbourne is back on schedule after a most unexpected detour last month. The 11-year veteran American football punter and former Melbourne and West Coast footballer was thrust back into the National Football League spotlight. The fact he had retired at 40 with chronic arthritis in his knee proved no deterrent to the red-hot Minnesota Vikings, who reactivated their former punter for the December 12 clash with Pittsburgh.
Only in America. "Where else can you be on the couch on Wednesday and play before millions on Sunday?" Bennett asked. "I hadn't touched the football for months, but it's good to fill in and pick up a couple of cheques."
Bennett thought his NFL career had ended in July when his body failed him at training camp. "Towards the end of camp I knew my knee wasn't going to come up," Bennett said. "It was my plant leg and I knew I was done. "The writing was on the wall at 40 years of age, as it should be. I was cruising off into retirement. "Then Minnesota's young punter got injured and they rang and said 'Can you come and punt for one or two weeks?' "
Bennett was Australia's trailblazer into the NFL after he tried out as a punter during his honeymoon in 1994. His record is phenomenal. He holds every major San Diego Chargers punting record after a nine-year stint that includes two Pro Bowl berths. A member of the NFL's team of the 1990s
, Bennett has been a pioneer for Australian kickers such as Geelong star Ben Graham, of the New York Jets, and Melbourne boy Matt McBriar, now at Dallas.
His admiration for Graham is boundless. "It is a bigger transition than people realise -- and to average what he has done in New York, in the open air windy stadium, is tremendous," he said of Graham, who is third overall in punting averages this season. "The pressure doesn't bother him. He's played in front of big crowds at the 'G. It's a credit to him."
... With young punter Chris Kluwe recovering from a knee injury, Bennett is no longer required by Minnesota, which has lost its past two matches on the way to the playoffs. But Bennett would have been struggling to be available anyway. With his knee causing him agony and keen to expand his business interests, he has headed home with his wife Rosemary.
Bennett is looking forward to taking William and his other son, Tom, 7, to AFL matches -- they are huge St Kilda and Nick Riewoldt fans. The cheque -- one 16th of a veteran's base contract -- of about $200,000 -- is the perfect farewell present. "I am going to buy a boat when I get back to Melbourne and enjoy myself," Bennett said. "This has been the time of my life."