Arrelious Benn made the following comments as part of his press conference Wednesday:
"I now have an opportunity to take care of my family. I know this is the right time to test myself at the next level. It is my lifelong goal for a sport I love. So today I'm announcing that I'm forgoing my senior year to enter the 2010 the NFL draft."
Even when Benn announced he would attend Illinois out of Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., most realized he was simply on loan from the National Football League. The possessor of a muscular, athletic body, a wise and intelligent mind, and an unmatched work ethic, Benn will now fulfill his destiny of becoming a great professional football player and an example for others to emulate.
Benn furthered his reputation as a tremendous representative of his university by saying all the right things at his press conference. He thanked his family and friends, his teammates and coaches. Most of all, he thanked Illini head coach Ron Zook.
"I wish to thank everybody who made my experience at Illinois a great one. Being a student at the University of Illinois has been everything I hoped it would be. And for that, I especially want to thank Coach Zook.
"He has been more than a coach to me. He has been a great father figure off the field, and he's helped me become an All-American on the field. He's also helped me grow as a person. If I have a son one day, I would want him to play for Coach Zook.
"As players, we didn't get it done for Coach Zook. We didn't reach the expectations we set for ourselves. I feel we put ourselves in a hole. We had injuries, and I had injuries throughout the whole season. But those types of things happen. It's football, and it's a physical sport. You never know what's gonna happen. It's hard to win at the collegiate level. Coach Zook is a great coach, and the Illini have a great future."
Benn is around 20 hours short of his degree, and he promised his mother he would graduate from the University of Illinois. But he knew the time was right for him to compete on the highest level.
"This the best time for me because I feel I'm ready. I've proven alot on the collegiate level. It's always been a dream of mine, and I feel it is the right time. There were no issues as far as salary cap or who else is going out. I care about the game and being the best player I can be."
If he is drafted in the first round, he will follow Illini stars Rashard Mendenhall and Vontae Davis as first round picks in three consecutive years. He admits a desire to compete with their success. But he also feels such an accomplishment would reflect well on his university.
"It would be very important. It would speak well of the program. It's something I want to do. I want to keep the tradition here going, build that reputation so we can get back where we should be."
What is he looking forward to the most upon joining an NFL team?
"Getting my hands on a playbook. They say the learning curve for rookie receivers is pretty tough as far as gettting the reps and getting into the playbooks. The speed of the game. I want to get going with that. It'll come."
Benn is a goal-oriented individual who chose Illinois because he preferred the challenge of helping it rise up from the ashes than to go where winning was frequent and expected. His favorite memories are influenced by his goals.
"One of the big things was 'The Journey.' And my biggest memory was the chance to come here and play in the Rose Bowl. I had a lot of criticism about coming here, but we backed it up by going to the Rose Bowl. That was a great experience."
His three favorite plays at Illinois gave Joe Paterno headaches.
"The kickoff my freshman year against Penn State. The slant where I broke about 8 tackles, again against Penn State. And the toe tap I caught in the end zone at Penn State last year. Those three stand out a lot. I had some of my best games against Penn State."
The Illini will replace Benn in the lineup, but few receivers could ever replace what he accomplished or what he represented when on the field in Memorial Stadium. Still, he believes the Illini will be returning a good corps of receivers without him, and he believes one in particular can stand out.
"Jarred Fayson. I think he's gonna take on the role of leader. There's a lot of young guys that are just waiting their chance to do what they can do."
Zook issued his own statement on Benn's behalf.
"I am very happy for Rejus. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to develop such a strong relationship with Rejus and his family over the past three years.
"I know this has always been a goal of his, to be in position to make this decision after three years. What is most impressive about him and his mother is their commitment to academics. Even though he will go on to have a great professional career, he is going to make sure to get a degree from Illinois.
"I love Rejus like my son, and he has always shown such great character and represented the university well. He will be greatly missed, not just because of his abilities on the field but because of what he brought to the team in work ethic and leadership. I wish him the best of luck."
Arrelious "Rejus" Benn leaves Champaign-Urbana for other venues, but he will always have a home here whenever he wishes to visit. And wherever he is, he will take the University of Illinois with him in his heart.
"I will always be proud to represent the University of Illinois. I want to be a role model for inner city kids."