By Paul M. Banks
You may have heard of a stellar University of Illinois wide receiver named Arrelious Benn, but the people really close to him call him Rejus. “It’s a nickname that started when I was younger, my father’s nickname was Redus and his real name was Arrelious, so I’m named after him,” Benn said. No word yet if anyone in Rejus’s family is named Kathie Lee (thanks I just got in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired). Rejus had a 3-yd touchdown run on Saturday in the Illini’s amazingly unexpected 38-14 shocker. We haven’t heard his name called much this season.
Benn began the season with a lot of hype, but hasn’t seen the spotlight much this fall because his team has struggled to a 2-6 record. He hasn’t had the best season, but he did begin the 2009 campaign with many preseason accolades including:
• Maxwell Award Candidate
• Biletnikoff Award Candidate
• Named Big Ten’s Fastest Receiver (The Sporting News)
• Rated the No. 20 player in the nation (The Sporting News)
• Rated the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten (The Sporting News)
He still has a chance to turn it around and live up to his billing, as Illinois’ schedule extends much longer this season. The team concludes on December 5th when they host Fresno St. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to go out there in the cold and sweat. Get covered with scarves around my arm, I like just going out there and playing the game, and I hope it snows,” Benn said about the Illini’s unorthodox schedule.
Benn began this season projected as a top ten, maybe even top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2010, but that stock fell as the team’s QB play struggled this season. As a consequence, Benn’s numbers have been anything but impressive.
But Benn’s physical gifts, and his body of work from his first two college seasons make still make him a prime prospect in the eyes of NFL scouts. Rejus has mid 4.4 speed, but still includes speed in his list of what he feels he needs to improve upon; which is pretty much everything: route-running, pass-catching, the whole package as he puts it. So what about his greatest strength? “For me to be able to do all the things I can do, at my size, I’m not your typical receiver,” Rejus answered. And his game has drawn comparisons to one of the best in the business right now. “For me to labeled as the next Anquan Boldin would be a tremendous complement.”
Obviously, this prompts the question of whether he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft next off-season. When asked about all the people who assume he’s done with college after this year, Benn said
“The media just does their job. That decision is for later down the road. I think I would be dishonest if I was thinking about something like that which I’m not, because we have unfinished business here,” Benn said.