By Paul M. Banks
“Today, I am announcing that I will forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft,” said Arrelious Benn (who is projected as the #1 or #2 wide receiver on most draft boards). His press conference came at 2 pm CT today. “It’s a great milestone, a great thing to do, and I feel I’m ready to do it.”
Rejus’ press conference included a lot of expressing gratitude, similar to an award acceptance speech.
“Being a student here at the University has been everything I thought it could be. I want to thank Coach Zook for that…I especially want to thank my Mom for being here, and pushing me to be the best that I could be.”
As Benn takes his journey to the pros, he says he will finish school at some point and he will attend the NFL Draft combine in Indianapolis.
And from what has been discussed about the NFL collective bargaining agreement, it seems any player who stays in school in favor of going pro next year will be giving up millions of dollars. So far, Jake Locker is the only player who was prepared to make that sacrifice. There is no 2010 salary cap as of now, The CBA expires after this season. When asked if this figured into his decision, Benn remarked:
“Money is money, I care about the game…My focus is just on being the best player on I can be.”
Like anything in life, nothing happens in a vaccum. What will become of Illini WR/DB Terry Hawthorne now?
I assume that Benn going pro all but seals his move to WR next season. Hawthorne is reminiscent of former Illini and current Indianapolis Colts DB Kelvin Hayden, in that he’s talented and athletic enough to excel at both positions. With Arrelious Benn gone, Hawthorne would be the new number one. Florida transfer Jarred Fayson the new number 2 and Fred Sykes the likely third option. After that who knows?
As for Benn’s main competition for 1st round status in the NFL Draft, That figures to be (at least at the WR position) Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant and LSU’s Brandon LaFell
“I am very happy for Rejus,” head coach Ron Zook said. “I feel very fortunate that I have been able to develop such a strong relationship with Rejus and his family over the past three years. I know this has always been a goal of his, to be in position to make this decision after three years. What is most impressive about him and his mother is their commitment to academics. Even though he will go on to have a great professional career, he is going to make sure to get a degree from Illinois. I love Rejus like my son, and he has always shown such great character and represented the university well. He will be greatly missed, not just because of his
abilities on the field but because of what he brought to the team in work ethic and leadership. I wish him the best of luck.”
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