Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin was not projected to fall where he did in the 2020 NFL Draft. In his mind, he was in the upper echelon of bell-cow backs this year's crop had to offer. Still, he fell to the seventh round where the Arizona Cardinals were more than happy to scoop him up.
It did not pan out the way he intended, but perhaps it ended as it was meant to. After all, Benjamin was the first Sun Devil the Cardinals had drafted since they took Pat Tillman in 1998.
In the seventh round. With pick 226.
Benjamin was selected No. 222 overall. The similarities are uncanny.
“Just knowing what Pat Tillman has done," Benjamin began to say shortly after being drafted and hearing the news, "not only for Arizona State or the state of Arizona, just even for this whole country — just to even be mentioned in something like that. I was just told that news that he was the last Sun Devil taken. It kind of shook me to my core hearing that just knowing who is and what he’s done.”
Shortly before the anniversary of Tillman's draft selection, which coincided with the 2020 version, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim graced a videoconference call with reporters wearing a Tillman jersey. It was intended as a tribute, a reminder to the organization to squeeze every ounce of value out of each of their six selections.
They did just that across the three draft days.
"When we decided to talk about special teams with our scouts, I thought it was only fitting that I rocked one of my favorite jerseys: my old-school throwback Pat Tillman jersey," Keim said at the time. "Really just to remind me and all of our scouts that when you're looking at these players, particularly special teamers, it's not always about the bells and the whistles and the measurables and the height, weight and speed. It's a lot about the heart. And, certainly, Pat Tillman was the guy who represented that."
An undersized, sturdily-built back, Benjamin had projections as high as the third round. In fact that is around where he expected to go. He took his slip in stride though and said he "can't be mad" about how it turned out. All he can do now is prove every franchise that passed on him wrong.
“I thought I’d be taken at some point during the third round," Benjamin said. "Closed that day, I was thinking I’d get drafted pretty early (on Day 3). It didn’t turn out that way, but I’m forever grateful that I got the opportunity to get drafted and play the sport that I love once again. It’s just that much of an easier transition for me being able to go and move right down the road from where I played in college.”