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Meet Eno Benjamin: The most elusive, versatile back in the 2020 NFL Draft

Benjamin is 1 of 5 athletes chosen for Panini’s Road to Rated Rookie series ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Kent State at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Blink and you’ll miss him.

Zoom.

He just ran by you again.

WHOP (Chris Berman’s voice)

Eno Benjamin made you miss.

Stack the box.

He just blew by your eight defenders on a wheel route.

His name is Eno Benjamin. And he hails from Arizona State University. The Sun Devils.

And this Sun Devil has a story to tell.

Measuring in at 5’9, 207 pounds at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Benjamin turned heads when he recorded impressive measurables including a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, 4.25-second 20-yard shuttle, 122.0-inch broad jump, 39.0-inch vertical leap and a 6.97-second 3-cone drill.

But the heads didn’t just start turning then, even if that’s when ‘armchair’ draft pundits started noticing.

Benjamin turned heads all three years he donned a Sun Devil uniform in Tempe. Whether it was his 56-yard breakout performance on just five carries in his freshman season against Colorado or any number of 100-yard performances during his three-year tenure, Benjamin looked every bit like a three-down starting running back in the NFL during his college career.

And honestly, he even turned heads sooner than that, you just had to know where to look.

A man among boys while at high school at Wylie East in Texas, Benjamin left countless defenders behind him en route to his 25+ scholarship offers and his spot as the sixth-best running back of his class.

And yet, the world outside the Pac-12 seemingly forgot just how talented he was.

Sure, he’d pop up on random leaderboards here or there because of his dominant statistical outputs.

Sure, he’d make an honorable mention on national award lists. But it seemed like the national media was a step behind knowing the true Eno Benjamin.

That was, of course, until a breakout performance in 2018.

“My Oregon State game when I rushed for 312 yards, that was my breakout game, that put Eno Benjamin on the map,” Benjamin told Pacific Takes in an exclusive interview.

And what an impressive performance that was. I remember it like it was yesterday, actually, as I charted it for Pro Football Focus (PFF). It set the then-PFF record for most broken tackles in a game when he broke 20 tackles on the ground on his 30 attempts and gained nearly 200 of those yards after first contact with the defender.

But Benjamin never quite got the national love and attention he deserved after a dominant sophomore season saw him run for 1,642 yards on 300 carries with 16 touchdowns and a bevy of defenders left in the dust behind him.

All he did after his sophomore season was run for another 1,067 yards on 253 carries with 10 touchdowns and an even bigger list of defenders left looking at his No. 3 jersey run by him in his junior season, his last in a Sun Devil uniform. Following his junior season, Benjamin declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility.

Finally, the national stage caught up to him, it seemed.

He was invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

He represented the Pac-12 in the State Farm All-Star Football Challenge.

He was invited to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

And yet, even after impressing at all of those events including the combine, there was more to tell. More to show.

“I felt really good about my performance at the combine,” Benjamin said. “One thing at my Pro Day that I was going to show was more so my route-running ability out of the backfield. And also lining up in the slot and showing (scouts) that I can get the job done there too.”

As impressive as his numbers were on the ground, Benjamin was also a dynamic receiver out of the backfield and when lined up in the slot, and the film from his time at Arizona State shows it.

He hauled in 82 career receptions for 624 yards and four scores. He made defenders miss just the same and hauled in the majority of his yards after the catch as most of his receptions came from behind the line of scrimmage.

Unlike any other draft class in history, however, the class of 2020 is having to deal with a pandemic that has shut down in-person meetings with NFL teams, cancelled pro day workouts and forced the alteration of the actual draft to most likely a virtual production. Coronavirus has ceased the way we know the world to function and the sports world is no different.

So for the class of 2020, they’re stuck with FaceTime or Skype meetings with teams and are forced, more than ever, to allow the film to speak for itself. Something that should bode well for Benjamin.

Still, with more to show and more to tell, Benjamin finds himself in an extremely fortunate position thanks in part to his efforts on and off the field.

Benjamin was selected as one of five athletes by Panini America to star in their docuseries ‘Road To Rated Rookie,’ chronicling his path to the NFL during an unprecedented draft season.

He was selected alongside Utah State QB Jordan Love, Georgia RB D’Andre Swift, Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy and Liberty WR Antonio Gandy-Golden to star in the series.

Benjamin will have his time — his turn — his shot at telling his story thanks in part to Panini America, and the official trading card partner of the NFL, NFLPA and Collegiate in return will have his back as a loyal supporter of Benjamin’s.

“Time and time again, Panini’s been family,” Benjamin said. “I’ve been in their facility many times and they’ve shown nothing but love. It’s kind of relaxing knowing that I’ve got that partnership and being able to sign cards helps me keep my head clear in these untimely ways that are taking their toll on the world.

“Having Panini and having these guys like Jason (Howarth, Panini America VP of Marketing) in my corner is a great thing to have.”

The docuseries will consist of a three-part feature, starting at the combine and continuing through the draft itself and all the way to each of the five rookies making their way to their NFL debut. It will be featured on social media and will also include behind-the-scenes footage as Benjamin and the other four athletes prepare to hear their names called on draft night.

“We chose these five players because of the unique stories they have to tell and how their journey has shaped them,” Howarth said in Panini’s press release. “While the Coronavirus pandemic has now changed that journey and was not part of the initial plan, we know how important it is for these players to share who they are beyond just their game tape and we hope this series helps convey that.”

So Eno finally gets to tell his full story.

And we finally get to watch it unfold.

“It’s a great feeling because I’ve been working towards this my whole entire life,” Benjamin said. “The fact that I’m going to be able to tell my story, it’s an amazing thing. I feel like athletes these days all have an amazing story to tell and it’s just finding the right person to help you voice it.”

We’re glad you found the right person to help you voice it, Eno.

We’re glad Panini found you.

And we’re especially glad that we, along with the entire nation during this incredibly difficult and unprecedented time will finally be able to hear, see and watch your story both past and present while watching the next step unfold.

That is, as Benjamin puts it, an amazing thing.