Wisconsin's best modern-day running back products: Michael Bennett

Jed Jacobsohn

Our four-part series concludes with a look at former Badgers running back Michael Bennett. What makes him stand out as the best NFL product to come from Camp Randall?

A few weeks ago, we began the discussion and debate on Bucky's 5th Quarter as to who was the best modern-day running back Wisconsin has produced. We profiled former San Diego Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher and featured Wisconsin transfer Aaron Stecker and his long, versatile years in the NFL. We recently took a look back on the professional career of Heisman Trophy winner and Living Legend, Ron Dayne.

For the last time, here is a chart detailing famous Badger running backs and their respective NFL careers, stats courtesy of NFL.com:

UW RBs Years Pro Bowls Career Rush Yds Career Rec Yds YPC (RUSH) YPC (REC) Total TD Best Rushing Season
Brent Moss 1 0 90 -3 4.1 -3.0 0 90 yds (1995)
Terrell Fletcher 8 0 1,871 1,943 3.6 7.5 13 543 yds, 3.5 YPC (1998)
Aaron Stecker 10 0 1,526 1,175 4.0 9.1 11 448 yds, 3.9 YPC, 5 TD (2007)
Ron Dayne 8 0 3,722 340 3.8 6.0 28 773 yds, 4.0 YPC, 6 TD (2007)
Michael Bennett 11 1 3,703 1,294 4.4 8.1 19 1,296 yds, 5.1 YPC, 5 TD (2002)
Brian Calhoun 2 0 54 55 3.9 5.0 0 35 yds, 5.0 YPC, 0 TD (2007)
P.J. Hill 1 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 N/A
John Clay 1 0 41 0 4.1 0.0 1 2 games, 41 yds, TD (2011)
Montee Ball? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Michael Bennett

Career Stats (Source: NFL.com)
Years Played in NFL 2001-2010 (Minnesota, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Oakland)
Best Year Rushing 2002: 255 carries, 1,296 yards, 5.1 avg, 5 TD
Best Year Receiving 2002: 37 receptions, 351 yards, 1 TD
Career Rushing Yards/Avg. 3,703 yards/4.4 avg.
Career Receptions/Receiving Yards 159/1,294 avg.
Total TDs (Rush/Rec/Other) 19 (13/6)
Best All-Purpose Yards Year 2002 - 1,647 yds (1,296 yards rushing, 351 yards receiving)
X-Factor Only UW RB in modern era to earn Pro Bowl birth & rush for 1,000 yds

How do you follow up a legendary back who rushed for 2,000 yards the year before, and over 7,000 in the past four? Well, one can run for almost 1,600 yards and find the end zone 10 times in the 2000 season, like Bennett did, an accomplishment that garnered him the third-highest rushing yards in the country.

He was drafted in the first round, 27th overall, to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2001 NFL Draft, a year after Ron Dayne went to the New York Giants in the first round as well. He rushed for almost 2,000 yards in his first two years in Minnesota, replacing another Big Ten standout in Robert Smith. His best season in 2002 earned him his first and only Pro Bowl berth.

His greatest success was with the purple and gold, but after the 2002 season, he never gained over 500 yards on the ground and bounced between four other teams. In his personal life, things took a turn for the worse, as he was arrested in 2012 for wire fraud.

What makes him Wisconsin's best running back product in the NFL: So many statistics to choose from ...

  • He was the only UW running back to earn a Pro Bowl berth
  • Bennett was the only back to gain over 1,000 yards in a season out of the modern era
  • He gained more yards per carry than the rest
  • The Milwaukee product also had the most 100-yard games in his career than all others, with nine. The other three combined?  Eight.
  • He also had one of the longest careers in the NFL among UW products.

What hurts his cause as best running back product in the NFL: One can argue his career was lightning in a bottle. Two good years in the beginning of his career in Minnesota, where he gained almost 2,000 yards in that span, but after 2002, he never gained more than 500 yards in a season. Although he is second in total rushing yards out of this group, it also took him four more years than Dayne to gain all 3,703 yards on the ground.

Overall thoughts: He flashed the most out of all the running backs in the past 25 years, earning Pro Bowl honors and rushed for almost 1,300 yards in a single season. Although his light faded after his rookie and sophomore campaigns in the league, his career out of the backfield, in our opinion and like many of yours in our polls, shined brighter than the others.

Ranking: No. 1 modern-day UW running-back product

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