Benson Ready For Heisman Race

<b>Kansas City, MO --</b> Texas' prolific running back Cedric Benson has a renewed commitment to the game of football, and that could be bad news for opponents on the Longhorns' schedule.

Benson has cleared the 1,000-yard marker in each of his three seasons on the job, and netted 1,360 yards and 21 scores on the ground in 2003. But even bigger things could be on the horizon for his senior campaign, as Benson looks to snag the same honor his mentor Ricky Williams accomplished in his final year in Austin.

In order to prepare for a Heisman Trophy bid and pending career in the NFL, Benson gave up playing minor league baseball and committed totally to football.

As a result, he figures to be better throughout all four quarters of a game instead of taking some time to hit his stride.

"Like Ricky, Cedric gets better in the fourth quarter than he was in the first quarter," said Texas coach Mack Brown during Thursday's Big 12 media day session. "This is the first year he'll be in top condition going into the season after playing baseball. He's worked him into shape in past years, but now he's already in shape. We're excited about him going into the season."

Benson also has a certain maturity about him and responsibility to give back to youngsters what Williams gave to him as a high schooler.

"I can remember back in 1998 when I was sitting in my bed, my mom woke me up and said the Cotton Bowl was on and Ricky was running," said Benson. "That whole season I was glued to the TV watching Texas football picking up everything I could.

"I grew up looking at Ricky and emulating a lot of things about him on and off the football. When I got here I kind of wanted to portray the role he did to me to other kids out there. I looked up to him greatly, and now I'm trying to leave my own legacy here."

Benson still remembers the day he first met Williams. The Heisman Trophy winner was in the early stages of his NFL career and traveled to Houston to be around Benson and the Longhorns before a game. It was an experience Benson will never forget.

"I didn't really know what to feel," Benson said. "I didn't know if I should feel or think a certain way. I remember when he walked up to me I was feeling so much emotion. I wanted to be best friends with him and I didn't even know him yet. It seemed like we had met before and we didn't talk like we just met each other. That's what I enjoy so much about meeting – that it was like I already knew him."

Robinson making immediate impact

Brown was more than happy to add former NFL defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to his staff for this season. Despite being fired by the Kansas City Chiefs after a stint under Dick Vermiel, Robinson has a lot of championships under his belt.

"One of the great things about him is his experience," Brown said. "He was involved with three Rose Bowl wins and two Super Bowl wins with Mike Shanahan. They were leading the league in forced turnovers last year and still weren't where they wanted to be. He tries to stop the run and forced turnovers."

Robinson has also developed solid working relationships with Texas veterans like linebacker Derrick Johnson.

"Coach Robinson has been a great addition to this team," said Johnson, a first-team All-American and All-Big 12 standout. "When he first came into camp, he may have been a lot older guy, but he acts real young. I spend a lot of time with him and have talks with him all the time. He's the type of person you can talk to as a friend, and that's what you really need out of a coach."

Added Brown, "Greg has come in and worked so well with the other coaches on the staff. The players have responded well to his enthusiasm and desire to be back in college football. For Derrick, who will be a great pro player, it's been great for him to work with a former NFL coach. To be able to be coached by a guy who has coached some great ones in the NFL is great for him.


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