Don't Mess with Nathan

CLEMSON – A piece of advice: Do everything possible to avoid upsetting Nathan Bennett. The Clemson offensive guard is very big, extremely strong, and, more importantly, has a monumental temper attached to a very short fuse.

"Nathan Bennett, he'll fight you if you just breathe wrong or look at him wrong," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "He's from Dallas, Georgia, which is north Georgia, and obviously they legalized fighting on the weekends up there for 48 hours. That's what he's done for 16 or 17 years."

Teammates describe Bennett, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound senior, as nasty, but not dirty. They say he's overly aggressive and protective, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"He makes it a point to tell me every week that I know that (he's got my back) just before kickoff," quarterback Will Proctor said. "There's no question that Nathan's got a mean streak."

The way Bennett sees it, it's a slap against him if any defender touches the quarterback. He takes it very personally. And heaven forbid if someone hits Proctor late.

"If I see a cheap shot on the quarterback, that really upsets me, that kind of sticks with me," Bennett said. "You've got to try and find the guy who did it at least once before the game's over."

Entering his fifth year at Clemson, Bennett has been in too many scrapes on and off the field to count. Even during this past Spring Game, he got into a fight and slung a helmet at a defensive player.

It would be difficult to say that he had anger management issues, but he's had anger management issues.

"Dallas, Georgia, is a unique place," Bennett said. "I guess I was raised a little different. I was raised never to start anything, but to definitely finish it. My coaches always told me in high school to never take anything off of anybody. Man, I took that to heart the first couple of years I was here. I didn't take nothing off coaches or teachers. I had to grow up a lot. I didn't know they just meant other players. …

"I've tried to get away from that. I've built a little bit of a reputation over the years and I try not to fight on the field any more."

Bennett's temper was so bad that he got into a fight in Clemson while on a recruiting visit his senior year in high school.

"It was just a guy talking a lot of junk about our quarterback (Charlie Whitehurst) and I just kind of intervened," Bennett said. "I figured since I was going to come here and I was going to block for him, I might as well start taking up for him now."

"I probably pass blocked about eight times in high school," he said. "I didn't even know how to pass block when I got here. That was a learning process."
Since that first brawl, Bennett has been labeled by his teammates and coaches as someone you have to handle differently.

"That (reputation's) just kind of stuck with me every since," he said. "Then going into camp (my freshman year) and not taking anything off of anybody … and here I am today with a pretty good reputation."

But to Bennett's credit, he has learned to think before reacting in all walks of life. He has matured and grown as a person, as most students do between their freshman and senior years.

"He's kind of wised up a little bit, not just on the field but off the field with walking away from situations," senior center Dustin Fry said. "He tries to avoid altercations a lot more than he used to."

However, it's that same ferociousness that has led him to be an NFL prospect. He is considered by scouts to be a very talented run blocker. Banging around in the middle of the line of scrimmage every play is something that's perfectly suited for Bennett.

"A lot of things go on that probably aren't seen by television cameras," fellow guard Roman Fry said. "It gets pretty dirty in there sometimes. Guys try to cheap shot you. You've got to hold your own. You can't take no crap. … He's a tough guy. That's great to have on your team. Who wouldn't want to play with a guy like that?"

Admittedly, Bennett's biggest weakness is pass blocking, though it has gotten significantly better this year.

"I probably pass blocked about eight times in high school," he said. "I didn't even know how to pass block when I got here. That was a learning process."

But by working on his flexibility with some yoga and stretching, Bennett has definitely grabbed the attention of NFL scouts. It's gotten to the point now that nothing gets under his skin more than giving up a sack or someone hitting the quarterback.

To date, he hasn't been upset much as the starting five offensive linemen have pretty much kept Proctor off his backside.

According to Dustin Fry, much of Bennett's success can be attributed to him keeping that anger in check. It's not totally gone and his coaches and teammates don't want it to be. But it's checked, nonetheless.

"Before every game, he gets pretty jacked up," Dustin Fry said. "It's a good mentality to have for playing football as long as you can channel your intensity. But he's definitely learned how to do that more. But sometimes, he still kind of goes off a little bit, but he's a lot better than he used to be." Top Stories