Sunday morning, the NFL community was shocked by the news that former eight-year running back Cedric Benson had died at the age of 36. The reported cause, which is under investigation by Austin emergency officials, is a motorcycle accident. Benson's family and friends confirmed the news on social media.
While he is best known for his time at the University of Texas and four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Benson also spent eight seasons in the NFL. He appeared in Super Bowl XLI with the Chicago Bears following the 2006 season, became a three-time 1,000-yard rusher for the Cincinnati Bengals, and was known for his hard-nosed running style.
Unfortunately, his time in the league and with the Green Bay Packers came to an early end due to a foot fracture, but Benson still accrued 6,017 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. He also added in 833 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Given his experience with multiple teams and the impact that he had across the league, the reactions to Benson's passing painted a picture of a beloved figure. Coaches and fellow players alike were devastated by the news of his death and shared memories of Benson's influence.
Let's go through the list of reactions.
Under head coach Mack Brown's tutelage, Benson became one of the most feared running backs in all of college football. The consensus All-American was the 2004 Doak Walker Award winner, which is awarded to the top running back in college football, and he rushed for more than 1,000 yards every season in Austin. Brown reacted to the news of Benson's death on Instagram, saying "We lost a great one way too soon." Brown also opened a Sunday press conference by discussing Benson, saying, "Sally and I, along with a lot of other Longhorns, are just crushed."
Like Benson, Vince Young is a household name in the state of Texas after a standout career for UT. The former third overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft spent two seasons as a teammate of Benson (2003-2004) before going on to win the National Championship in 2005. Together, the pair formed an unstoppable duo while each rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2004.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a legend in Texas after his career at Baylor, showed his respect for Benson. The former second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft joined the league during Benson's final season, but he grew up watching his fellow Texan produce at an astounding level.
Rest In Peace to Cedric Benson, A Texas Legend gone too soon pic.twitter.com/RthHjygryQ— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 18, 2019
Jarrett Payton is the son of former Chicago Bears running back and all-time legend Walter Payton, so he has seen some impressive production from the position. Chicago alone has seen some big names come in and produce for the Bears, and Benson certainly made an impact during his three seasons in the Windy City.
RIP Cedric Benson. 🙏🏽— Jarrett Payton (@paytonsun) August 18, 2019
Justin Forsett never played on the same team as Cedric Benson, but the pair crossed paths during their careers. The former Seahawks, Ravens, Texans, Jaguars, and Colts running back also grew up in Texas and entered the NFL three seasons after Benson. As a Texas native, Forsett was well aware of the impact that the eight-year veteran had on the sport, as well as the state.
Cedric Benson isn't listed among the top running backs in NFL history, but he is a player that has defined American football since he broke onto the scene in Texas. He had the name-value where everyone knew who he was, regardless of fandom or rooting interests.
In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals looked like an unstoppable juggernaut en route to the Super Bowl, largely due to the production of Benson on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this team fell during the Wild Card game against Rex Ryan's New York Jets, but Benson produced one of his best stat lines during the defeat.
In the Bengals 2009 playoff game vs the New York Jets, Cedric Benson carried the football 21 times for 169 yards and a TD. He caught another 3 balls for 12 yards. One of their best playoff performances during the Marvin Lewis era. pic.twitter.com/rFr6OPeMBq— JG (@JoeGoodberry) August 18, 2019
Many football fans were unaware of Benson before his stellar career at the University of Texas, but he was producing long before donning the burnt orange. Benson attended Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas and wildly impressed before joining UT. He led his school to three-straight 5A state titles and ended his career as Texas' fourth all-time leading rusher with 8,423 yards. This included a 1999 season in which he galloped for 3,526 yards.
How special was Cedric Benson in high school? He was the first high schooler EVER to grace the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
To this day, he’s the only high school player to get a solo cover. RIP 32.— Shehan Jeyarajah (@ShehanJeyarajah) August 18, 2019
Chad Johnson, who spent 10 years with the Cincinnati Bengals and is the franchise's all-time leading receiver, spent four seasons with Benson. The pair helped form one of the league's better offenses and routinely made Cincinnati more competitive. Benson and Ochocinco propelled the Bengals to the playoffs twice but were unable to reach the Super Bowl. Still, the 2009 season featured countless big plays, and Benson was a major reason why Johnson saw better opportunities in the passing game.
R.I.P Cedric Benson 👼🏾 pic.twitter.com/dLoIIOd3zY— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) August 18, 2019
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are bitter rivals, but there is a mutual respect when both teams are finding success. As this fan of JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers remembers, Benson was very productive against the Black and Yellow. In eight career games against the Steelers, Benson produced 365 rushing yards and one touchdown. He didn't top 100 yards during these performances but still served as one of the more difficult backs to corral.
Cedric Benson used to give us hell man— Steelers 💛🖤 RIP Coach Drake (@JuJuFanAccount_) August 18, 2019