Before the Arizona Cardinals selected running back Eno Benjamin in the seventh round of April's draft, he was carving up opposing defenses at the college level just 26 miles away from State Farm Stadium for Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium.
Benjamin broke several program records as a Sun Devil. In just three seasons, he was one of the most productive backs in their history, finishing his career at No. 7 in total rushing yards (2,867), No. 6 in rushing touchdowns (27) and total attempts (576) and No. 4 in games with 100 or more rushing yards (15). He also graduated and earned his degree in the three years he was at school.
Benjamin was a first-team All-Pac-12 member in 2018 and 2019, his sophomore and junior seasons. During the former year, he broke the school record for rushing attempts in a single season (300), single-game rushing yards (312) and single-season rushing yards (1,642) and was named an AP third-team All-America.
More interestingly, Benjamin was seldom used as a true freshman, as he played behind current Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard.
Now, Benjamin is hoping to carve out a role on the Cardinals in a similar depth chart situation as his first year in college. Kenyan Drake is the clear-cut starter. Chase Edmonds is the No. 2 option. Benjamin joins fellow former ASU running back D.J. Foster in battling for the third spot, while also vying for special-teams reps.
"He's definitely got quite a personality," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Friday. "I think those of you who probably covered him at Arizona State, he's kind of a free spirit. Super productive at Arizona State and he has a knack for finding the hole. There's no doubt. We haven't seen him too much in live action outside of [Friday], but he definitely has a feel for the run game and that's exciting to see where he can take this thing. He's got to find a role contributing on special teams and he knows that, but we like what we've seen so far."
When he originally declared his intentions to forego his senior collegiate season and enter his name into the NFL Draft, he pegged himself as a second-day option. While that prediction did not come to fruition, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was thrilled with the value the franchise received that late in the draft.
"Last pick, Eno Benjamin, a guy that we thought would have gone much higher," Keim said in April. "The value in the seventh round and a player that can do a number of things for you; really excited about him."
Added Kingsbury at the time: "As far as Eno goes, very familiar with him as a player. (I) remember recruiting him in high school (while head coach at Texas Tech) and obviously followed him and the success he's had out here. He's very durable, very productive, tough runner. Last year, we get to about Week 6 and we're down to our third back. That's when we made the trade for Kenyan. We wanted to bring in a guy, a young guy, that could learn from two backs that we're very high on and be a productive part of the team. We think Eno fills that need."