Nov. 8, 2000
What do people not know about you or assume about you that isn't true?
Benn: "I think that if you don't know me, I am a lot different than what you think I am like. People meet me and just think of me as a football player, a big mean old lineman. I like to think I am a pretty nice guy. I am not just what you see. I am a lot different than the way I am on the field, it is like night and day. I am really laid back, nice guy, but I think to be a good football player, you have to be a little nasty and not like the guy you are playing against for 60 minutes. I have a lot of respect for the guys I play against. If I play against you, after the game I am going to come and shake you hand and say `Nice game.' Whether you kicked my butt or I kicked yours, I have respect for you, because we played a game."
You can be a little intimidating though.
Benn: "I can definitely see where people come from with that. But I hope that once people get to know me, they realize that I am not. When I first came here, I was trying to be the guy that not everyone hated. Now, basically all that matters is my friends and my family. If someone else doesn't like me, I don't really care. But don't not like me because I am a big football player."
Is there anything else interesting about you, or the way you do things?
Benn: "I am humungeously superstitious. If I do something during the week and we win, I have to do it the next week. One of the things I have to do started way back at the beginning of the season. We went to the Ram (restaurant) on Sunday night and we won. We went 3-0 and didn't really think about it. Then we didn't go, and we lost to Oregon. We went a few more weeks, and kept winning, so now we have to go. A lot of us don't want to go anymore, but we have to go a least for a little while because we have to do what did. That's what I did Sunday night. I went for half an hour and then went home.
"We have o-line pizza on Thursdays. The whole o-line goes out for pizza. If we eat in the banquet room one week and we lose, we sit in the main part of the restaurant the next week. We change it up. If I have a pizza one week and I play badly, I will have a salad the next week. We always go out to eat on Wednesday nights too. We went to the Ram during Oregon week and we haven't been back on a Wednesday night since.
"I listen to the same music before the game. I listen to a little Hank Williams Jr., Jimmy Buffett, Limp Bizket, Korn, Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, songs just to get me pumped up. I usually listen to them in the same order. Then I put my uniform on the same way every week. I put on my braces, then I put on my pants, and then I tape my braces. Weird things like that. And I have to get dressed and then have a few minutes dressed before I go out to the field. Then, when I walk up and down the tunnel, I have to hit every Rose Bowl plaque on the way out and the way back up. I am big on having a routine.
"I wear the same T-shirt under my pads on Saturdays. If that gets ripped or anything, I have to make sure that Jose, one of our equipment managers, gets it after the game, so he can sew it up. It is an old Grateful Dead shirt. [What happens when it starts falling apart?] It already has. He has already patched some of the holes in it. Dom (Daste) had one shirt that Jose sewed another shirt to so he could keep wearing it. I have been wearing this one since Oregon. I threw away the one I wore before that in the trash at Oregon on the way out of the locker room. Other than that, after the game, I am free for a day and a half, until Sunday night when I go to the Ram. It is starting to bug me. I don't like being superstitious, but I want win so I just do what I did."
What do you do with your free time, away from football?
Benn: "I pretty much hang out with the same guys. I live with (offensive linemen) Wes Call and Dominic Daste, and John Hart, a fullback. The offensive line is usually over at our house all of the time, so we are always hanging out together. Right now, we don't have too much free time, but when we do, I really just like lounging around and talking. I enjoy using my free time just to relax and hanging out with the guys. It is never boring even we are just lying around on the couch doing nothing. We just watch TV, or sit around doing this or that. I think we are still trying to move into our house, because we moved in right before doubles. I like to go out to eat with the guys too."
What kinds of things do you watch on TV together? Is it mostly sports, or movies?
Benn: "We watch sports and MTV. We watch Howard Stern once in a while. We also watch movies. I am a big fan of "Tombstone" and "Braveheart." I like westerns, and Tombstone is one of the best ones I have seen. Braveheart, I just like the combat scenes and what they went through. I look at that movie and think `I couldn't do what he did.' I have a lot of favorite movies, those are just a few I could watch over and over. [Do you say the lines along with it?] No, but actually, my roommate, John Hart really likes Top Gun. Whenever it comes on, he can say every line from every character and it gets really annoying. Sometimes I have to change movies, because he mouths all of the lines in the movie."
Do you watch a lot of sports on TV, especially college football, or do you try to get away from it since that is a large part of your life?
Benn: "I really like watching other college football games. I am also a big Seahawks and Sonics fan. If sports are on, I am usually watching them. I like to watch college football the most. I have always liked watching Nebraska. I like watching teams that run the ball a lot. I guess it is an offensive line thing. I watch them and see if they do anything that I could do. I try to just chill out and watch it, but I find myself watching the center or the defensive linemen and thinking I am glad I don't have to deal with that guy. It is just a habit I guess."
Is the NFL something you see yourself aspiring to?
Benn: "I try not to think that far ahead. I have seen a lot of guys bank on it and it not happen for them. If it comes it comes, if it doesn't, fine."
Living with a bunch of football players, and also having to work out with them, practice with them, play games with them, etc., is there ever a time you wish you could just come home and get away from football?
Benn: "Yes. I argue with them all the time. It is weird how much we argue. It is probably because we are around each other all of the time. It is never bad, I think we just enjoy arguing with each other. There are times when we come home and we say `No shop talk tonight, don't say anything about football.' Then if someone starts talking about football, everybody yells at him. Some nights we just try to get away from it. There are definitely times we come home, and we all just go to our rooms and close the doors and no one will talk. Sometimes, I will go home to my parents' house for a while to try to relax and get away from everybody for a few hours."
What is it like being able to go home to your parents' house, it being so close by, and just being with your family?
Benn: "It is nice. I didn't really realize how nice it was until Dom and Wes, they are both from California, told me, `You don't know how lucky you are.' I can drive home in less than 10 minutes, do my laundry and get some free food. I try to take them with me sometimes. I have taken them a few times, but a lot of time they don't want to get up off the couch. If I dangle free food in front of them, sometimes they will come."
So are you a family guy? Is it hard for you not being able to spend time with your brothers being busy with football?
Benn: "I am definitely a family guy. I love listening to what my brothers are doing. I always call and wish my brother good luck for his games. I talk to my other brother about how school is going. I just think that is something that some of my friends don't even know, that I am that loyal to my family. My brothers are a little different than me, and sometimes my friends make jokes about it. I yell at them for it and they don't realize that I took it that personally. On Saturday mornings, they always give us the paper at the hotel, and I always go look for his score and call home to see how he did. My parents go to everything so I call my parents and ask my brothers are doing and see what they are up to. And now that we are more the same age, we are better friends. It is not hard to keep up with them at all."
What brought you to the University of Washington?
Benn: "I have been a Husky fan since I can remember. All of my family has season tickets. I couldn't see leaving and I like it around here."
You are business major, what do you plan to do with that?
Benn: "I don't know yet. I like finance, dealing with money and things like that. I just figured I would be safe if I got that degree and football didn't work out."
How are classes?
Benn: "Classes are good. Right now I am taking business economics and marketing. Advertising is interesting, but it is not what I want to do. Business economics is a requirement, and it is more stuff that I do not want to do. I only have school two days a week, so that is nice. I worked out my schedule well during football season."
Does football ever end for you? With off-season workouts, spring ball, etc.
Benn: "No. It is a year round thing. It does not bug me though. It gets on some guys' nerves. At the end of every quarter you have a week off and at the beginning of the summer you have a few weeks off, and I enjoy those. I get my vacation and my rest in then. But I enjoy come down here and working out, because I get to hang out with all my friends. That makes it not so much of a chore, if you are with the people you like."
Is this team closer knit than past years, especially now with Curtis Williams getting hurt?
Benn: "From my point of view it is. It is definitely a lot closer team. There is really no animosity towards other players. There aren't guys who hate each other. If one guy screws up, there aren't a bunch of guys yelling at him, everyone says `That is fine, we will take care of it.' I think that is probably the biggest thing that has led to some of our improbable wins. I don't know if Curtis' injury has brought the team closer, but it has brought out how close we are to each other. It is showing everyone else who may not have seen it before how close of a team we are and how much we rely on each other."
Is there a sense of winning for Curtis?
Benn: " I think against Stanford, we just thought, we have to win, our buddy is down. Losing would just have added insult to injury. I think this week it was more the thought of Curtis lying in bed in California watching the game, and what is he thinking watching us. You hate to use a clich?, `You have to win one for Curtis,' but we were definitely thinking about him during the game. I liked knowing that he was watching. The whole time, with all the pageantry and things that were done, I was thinking, how does this make Curtis feel. I was hoping that it made him feel better. I think we also thought going out and getting a win would be good medicine for us and for him."
One of the notes on Curtis' message board on the Internet was from Marcus Houston, the running back from Colorado. Are you shocked by the outpouring of support?
Benn: "I didn't really think about the effect it had had on the greater football community, until I saw that Stanford had number 25 stickers on the back of their helmets, USC signed a helmet and brought it up and gave it to him. Arizona signed a helmet and gave it to our captains at the coin toss of the game and then obviously Marcus Houston's quote. It just blows you away, that while we are all against each other, we are still one big community."
And now to football. What is it like having to technically start every play, especially when the team is behind in the game?
Benn: "It is a big responsibility, but you don't really think about it. You just have to go out there and play like you always do, make no mistakes and keep people off Marques (Tuiasosopo) and let him and the running backs do their job. We have great confidence in them that if we (the offensive line) do our jobs, they will do theirs. And they have done that a lot lately."
Is the pressure of being the center different now than when you started playing in college?
Benn: "When I first started, we had a real problem getting the ball to each other, because I have short arms, so I wasn't getting him the ball like I should have. He (Marques) had to adjust his whole way of getting underneath me. For the first spring that I was a starter we had a real hard time with that. But we went every day during the summer and practiced and it just became second nature. Now, I really don't think about it a lot. It is not a big deal. It is a big deal to get the ball but it is not that hard."
In high school, you played on the defensive line, and now you have to go up against those guys every game. Has that experience helped you in your current position?
Benn: "Obviously knowing all the defensive linemen on our team very well helps. It is not too hard to know what they are thinking though. Talking to other defensive lineman, you know that they listen for our calls and they try to key off of certain things that we do during the game. So, we try to change that up and just go out and play."
Do you prefer playing center to playing defensive lineman?
Benn: "Yes. Over the last two years I have realized that I could not have played defensive line in college. They are better than I was and they are little different kind of athlete. I would rather be at a position I like. I don't want to say they are "better" athletes, but that might be the right term. They are faster, that is why they are on defense. That is why you have guys of the same size on different sides of the ball."
Does a defense like Miami and Arizona had, force you to make adjustments in your game preparation?
Benn: "We try to practice hard all of the time. Obviously some weeks, circumstances change that. Like last week, Arizona had a really fast defense, so Coach Neuheisel prompted the scout team to go as fast and as hard as they could. They did and that prepared us well. Hopefully they will do that again and we just go out and get ready to play UCLA."
How important is the scout team to you for game preparation?
Benn: "They are a huge factor. The harder they go, the better they get us ready. You don't hear a lot about them , but they are a huge factor in getting us ready for the games."
Arizona had the sixth-ranked rush defense in the nation coming into Saturday's game, yet we were able to rack up a lot of rushing yards on them. What happened to allow that?
Benn: "We knew coming in that they have a great defense, they do every year with their flex defense. We just knew that we were going to have to pound them. We didn't expect any big plays because they don't give up big plays. We were just going to pound, pound, pound, and hopefully those short runs in the first quarter would be long runs in the fourth quarter. Whether we blocked it well, or their guys were out of place, we popped a few big plays and got us the win."
Being the center, often times you are not one-on-one with anybody, you have to take on a couple of guys, does that make it harder to prepare for?
Benn: "Not really, but it depends on the talent of the guys we are playing against. Last week, Arizona's tackle was head-up with me the whole game. That is a lot harder than if the tackles are over the guards, because then I just help the guards the whole game. In preparation maybe it is a little harder because you have more guys you have to watch for and find out what they do. But it is something that you adjust to."
The offensive line is typically the unsung hero, making things happen without getting the glory. When the other offensive players, Marques, the running backs, the receivers, earn awards, do you feel like you were a part of it ?
Benn: "Being an offensive lineman, you have to be behind the scenes. When a running back or quarterback does great, we take great pride in that. We know that we had a small part of that. We know that they trust us and we trust them to help us. That is the part I love about it."
Do you think the offense it where it needs to be at this point in the season? Marques had mentioned that the offense owed the defense a game, do you think that is true?
Benn: "I think we are getting there. We have still been sluggish the first three quarters the last few weeks and then picked it up in the fourth quarter. In terms of owing the defense, they play their butts off and we still make it close by waiting until the end to score. I think that for us to pay the defense back we are going to have to come out and play our butts off for four quarters. Then maybe we will feel like we have paid them back a little for all of the jams they have gotten us out of this year."
Is there a conscious effort not to make this just a fourth quarter team, to actually come out and put a whole game together?
Benn: "I think about that all the time. Obviously, we would just love to come out and dominate a game for four quarters on both sides of the ball. That is what we work for all of the time and for one reason or another, one part of the game has not shown up here and there. I can't say that I am just waiting for it to happen, because we are working for it every day, but I think when it does happen it will be nice to be a part of."
Which is more important right now, getting to a bowl game or just getting the win each Saturday?
Benn: "I think it is more important to think about just getting the win. We learned from last year when we beat Arizona and were in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl. We were thinking Rose Bowl. We were thinking that all we had to do was to go over a below average UCLA team, below average for them that year, and also beat a Washington State team, and we stumbled and fell. I think that we have learned that you have to go one week at a time and not take it for granted and good things will happen."