Daily Dose of Crimson Tide: Cornelius Bennett

Christopher Walsh

At Alabama, it’s simply known as “The Sack.”

It came during the 1986 game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team the Crimson Tide had never defeated, when Steve Beuerlein dropped back to pass and was hit so hard by linebacker Cornelius Bennett that he was knocked cleanly off his feet. The vicious blow helped pace a 28-10 victory at Legion Field in Birmingham.

“He knocked me woozy,” Beuerlein said. “I have never been hit like that before, and hopefully I’ll never be hit like that again.”

Bennett was a three-time all-conference selection, two-time All-American and named defensive player of the game at both the 1985 Aloha Bowl and the1986 Sun Bowl. His senior year, he compiled 61 tackles, 10 sacks and six forced fumbles en-route to unanimous All-America honors, in addition to finishing seventh in Heisman Trophy voting, and received the Lombardi Award given to the nation’s top lineman.

For his collegiate career, Bennett tallied 287 tackles, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries.

“Signing my letter of intent to play at the University of Alabama, and then playing against the University of Washington in the Sun Bowl my last game senior year, those two things really stand out more than anything else,” Bennett said. “The first part was becoming part of a great tradition and the last was finishing off a career where I tried my best to continue that tradition.”

But Bennett was just getting started. After being the second-overall selection in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a contract. Shortly before the trade deadline, Bennett was part of an unusual massive three-way deal that also included Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson and Buffalo running back Greg Bell, sending his negotiating rights to the Bills.

It’s considered the move that made Buffalo a title contender, although some didn’t see it that way at the time.

“I don’t know how we ever made the trade for Cornelius Bennett,” former Bills general manager Marv Levy said. “I was opposed to what we had to give up, it was so much. A first, a second, Greg Bell and so on. Finally at 3 in the morning I told Bill Polian, ‘OK, let’s go along with it.’ The next year, we didn’t have a first-round pick and we needed a top-shelf running back. We took one in the second round. A guy named Thurman Thomas.”

Because of his holdout, Bennett played in only eight games as a rookie, but recorded 8.5 sacks. A year later he helped the Bills win their first AFC Eastern Division title in eight years, and made the first of five appearances in the Pro Bowl.

Bennett played in four consecutive Super Bowls with the Bills (1990-93), and a fifth with Atlanta (1998)  all losses.

During his 14 National Football League seasons, Bennett notched 71 sacks, seven interceptions, and his 26 fumble recoveries ranked third in league history. He was a five-time All-Pro.

Some of this post originated from "100 Things Crimson tide Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," published by Triumph Books

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Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin

Editor

He is No. 1 or No. 2 on my all-time list of Alabama linebackers.


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