Former Mountaineer Linebacker Trying To Reach Next Level
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Al-Rasheed Benton had a brutally truthful take on the Pro Day experience.
It’s hard enough training for three months for a handful of drills. It’s even harder to know which NFL teams might have an interest.
“They talk to you and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are interested,” Benton said. “It’s like college. Just because you got a letter doesn’t mean you are about to get a scholarship.”
Benton and a dozen other Mountaineers ran through the seven drills during West Virginia’s Pro Day on Thursday, and were measured down to the nth degree for height, weight and other tangibles. The linebacker’s play was crisp as he moved efficiently through the paces of three-cone, shuttle and 40-yard dashes, as well as the vertical and broad jump, among others.
“It was decent,” said Benton, always his own worst critic. “Could have been a lot better in a lot of different areas. I did better in some areas than others. Couple different times I felt like I could have done better in this or that drill, but the guys kept pushing me and letting me know I was doing a good job. From their point of view it looked good, and that helped my confidence and kept me going.
“Still a lot of work to do on Foot speed and trusting my keys, trusting my reads. Sometimes I may see the play and see certain things happening and not trust it, so just trusting in what I’m seeing.”
Benton honed in on the foot speed aspect of it, focusing on that training during the offseason while also trying to add a few pounds to his 6-foot, 237-pound frame. The mike linebacker, who made 110 tackles last season, and 204 in his WVU career, projects to a similar position at the next level. The definition of a fringe-type player, Benton will likely have to prove himself as a free agent if he is to make an NFL roster.
“I’ve talked with a few different teams,” said Benton, who along with fullback Eli Wellman served as West Virginia’s team captain last season. “At this point it’s out of my hands. Whatever they decide. I just know I want an opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.”
He always has, even as an under-recruited linebacker out of Shabazz High in Newark, N.J. A two-year starter and four-year letterman, Benton anchored the middle of WVU’s 3-3-5 defense. He was also the heart and soul of the squad for the better part of his last two seasons, ever since fellow linebacker Shaq Petteway bequeathed the leadership title to him following the Cactus Bowl victory on Jan. 2, 2016.
That mojo continued during Pro Day, when the Mountaineer players offered continuous encouragement to each other though the drills. Flanked by the likes of Elijah Battle, Mike Daniels, Marvin Gross, Hodari Christian, Corey Winfield and Kyzir White, Benton offered up his usual dose of verbal and moral support. It’s likely the last time the seven will ever be on the same field in a competitive environment again, and it created a cherished moment.
“It was good to get out with the guys,” Benton said. “Some of them I haven’t seen in months, some since the bowl game. Those guys drive me, they get me going.”
For a final shot to extend his career, one that exceeded all but perhaps the expectations of Benton himself, and the coaching staff which recruited him.
“It’s tough just thinking about it. You sit there for three months training to do four drills that really don’t have a whole lot to do with football,” Benton said in his modestly honest style. “I don’t know when I’m going to run an L drill in the middle of a game. By this time in spring ball, I would have had a helmet on and played ball. That’s the toughest part.”