He was a first-team All-Canadian defensive lineman and a Canada West All-Star in 2022 with the Regina Rams. He’s a six-foot-three, 230-pound ball of quarterback-tracking energy, with sure enough hands to take an interception back 28 yards for a touchdown, as the Calgary Dinos learned last season.
He comes from a football-playing family, where his father, uncle and brother have all found their way to the college/U SPORTS ranks and eventually the CFL or NFL.
Despite the pedigree and the hype around him, Anthony Bennett wants teams to know that as he heads into the CFL Draft on May 2, he remains a blank slate for whichever team that selects him.
“Quite frankly, any position on the field, anything they wanted me to play, I’d do that. In a heartbeat,” Bennett said.
» Matthew Bergeron takes top spot in Spring Scouting Bureau rankings
» Mock Draft 1.0: What will Ottawa do with the first overall pick?
» O’Leary: How will pro days affect the CFL Draft?
» View: The 2023 CFL Draft order
» Subscribe to the CFL’s newsletter for exclusive offers and league updates
» More 2023 CFL Draft news, notes and analysis
That’s quite the statement, coming from the 16th-ranked prospect in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s spring edition. Chatting with CFL.ca at the start of the CFL Combine presented by New Era in Edmonton, Bennett was relaxed but focused on the work he had ahead of himself that week. That bold, put-me-in-coach kind of statement came from Bennett discussing his need to “find a home” on every team he’s been a part of.
“It comes down to what this is,” he said, gesturing to the players that were milling about that day, getting some of their early measurements in, some taking part in promotional photo shoots, others beginning to meet with team personnel.
“It’s a recruiting process. It’s also finding coaches that are willing to see what you’re going through and say, ‘Hey, I want this guy in my program.’ The best way, the best attribute is to be malleable at anything they need. Anything they need, you want to be the best you that you can be, but be the best for the team. That’s what I think I contribute.”
While Bennett showed well amongst his d-line counterparts in Edmonton, he knows that those starting spots on teams’ rosters aren’t just going to appear this spring when he reports to training camp. Whatever doors open up to him, he’ll be ready to walk through them.
“(A coach) might be full of receivers, he can’t take you. But you play awesome on special teams and he can maybe use your ball skills to play DB. Are you willing to change and be malleable?” Bennett asked.
“I love the game of football. I’ve played it my whole life. I’ve never stuck to one position. (Teams) prefer me at rush end because of my motor, but once again I’d play anything they wanted me to.”
Bennett’s adaptability is the reason why his football career is on the verge of being extended. Having grown up in Weston, FL, he’d spent the 2017 and 2019 seasons at Florida Atlantic University. A coaching change, plus the uncertainty created by the pandemic in the 2020 season had a freshly-graduated Bennett considering a career in law enforcement. That’s when the Regina Rams reached out. Despite there being no 2020 U SPORTS season, they offered Bennett the chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother Andrew, who had played receiver for the program. He weighed his options and quickly jumped at the opportunity to go play in his mother Patricia’s hometown.
“It was mainly that I’d rather live that brotherhood and be wanted by a team again,” he said. “There’s no better feeling in any sport and I’ve played many sports. There’s no better feeling in any sport being on a football team.
“It’s the atmosphere, the guys, the funny moments, the tragic heartbreaks, everything. The game of football…you look at all the Naval Academy teams down south, you look at teams here and it just brings guys together. Everybody has invested in the same goal.”
Over two years with the Rams, Bennett had 46.5 total tackles (36 solo), 10 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and that pick-six touchdown through 13 games. The 2022 season saw the recognition for his hard work and abilities come through. With no shortage of people around him that have made similar journeys — his father, Charles, played a game for the Riders in 1985 while trying to land a spot with three different NFL teams in his pro career — he feels confident in how he’ll go about taking the next important steps in his own pro life.
“You take appreciation for the game. You hear all their stories, you build a new type of knowledge, because you obtained every story. And every story has just a little bit of more information of what you could be going through at the time,” he said.
“They just keep saying, ‘Row your boat, do your thing. Keep going.’ That’s all it is, every level rise, don’t fall. It’s OK to lose a battle, don’t lose a war type of deal. They’re all proud of me and want me to continue to do what I do best.”