First of all, Happy 4th of July to everybody. In between vacuuming out the pool, folding laundry, and marinading chicken and burgers for tonight’s feast with the in-laws, I’ve had the Dallas Cowboys Hard Knocks marathon playing in the background on NFLN. At one point, while folding some of my undies, I couldn’t help but stop and watch Martellus Bennett (a rookie at the time) interact with his coaches.
Bennett’s position coach at one point told Martellus to put his helmet on. Bennett, taking his sweet time in a semi show of disrespect, took 16.4 seconds to put it on. Yes, I rewound it on my DVR and I timed it. Stop what you’re doing and count to 16. It’s an eternity. It was kind of like Bennett was thinking “OK, I know I have to put my helmet on. I can’t just completely disobey my coach, or this thing is going to turn into a blowup. I’m just going to take forever to put this thing on to show this guy that he’s not really the boss of me.” At another point, his position coach was giving Bennett instruction. Bennett looked like a zombie. No nodding, no response, no acknowledgement whatsoever from Bennett that another human being was trying to talk to him. Nothing. When the coach walked away, Bennett suddenly snapped out of his zombie-like gaze, turned to the camera, and flashed a big smile. As a 2nd round pick, there was no way in hell Bennett wasn’t going to make the team, but if an undrafted free agent ever acted like Bennett, he’d be cut on the spot.
I’m going to go Uncle Rico on you for a second. When I was 11 years old (6th grade), I was a really good basketball player, perhaps even the best player at my age in the town I grew up in. It was either me or Billy Kittles, cousin of former Villanova standout Kerry Kittles. In the little in-town league I played in, we’d have scores like 34-11, and I’d have 18 by myself. It was easy. When I got to 7th grade, that was when basketball in my town got a little more serious. I had a coach at my grade school that thought he was Dean Smith, and held 2-hour practices after school every day. It was 45 minutes of fundamentals, about 10 of sprints, 15 in various water breaks, and the rest running our boring-ass pick-setting offense over and over and over again. Five days per week, every week. I hated it, and I’m sure it showed. Some of the kids worked on their game during practice and got better. I didn’t. I only cared about the games. Unfortunately, because I showed such a lack of interest in practice, I rode the bench during the games, and I grew to hate my coach and basketball in general. I stuck it out for 2 years, and I didn’t even start as an 8th grader. Later, I didn’t even make my high school freshman team.
(Cont after the jump)…
For years I blamed my 7th/8th grade coach, but really it was on me. I didn’t want to be coached, I didn’t want to work hard to refine my game, and I wasn’t going to be told what to do. Sometimes I look back and wonder how far I could have gone with basketball if my attitude was different.
Martellus Bennett has 68 career catches in 3 seasons. He has 4 career TD’s, and none since his rookie season. Even with Jason Witten firmly entrenched as the team’s #1 guy, the Cowboys run enough 2-TE sets where Bennett can make an impact. He’s barely produced a ripple. Despite his physical gifts, Bennett has wildly underachieved. I’m not in the Cowboys’ locker room, I’ve never been to a Cowboys’ practice, and I don’t know Bennett personally. While it’s perhaps a little unfair to sum up Bennett’s career based on watching a minute of air time on a TV show that ran 3 years ago, Bennett has always had the reputation of a guy that “loves the perks of being a pro athlete, but doesn’t want to do what it takes to be a great pro.” I saw what that meant as I watched Hard Knocks today.
Like myself, I wonder if Bennett will look back and wished he had done some things a little differently.