Benavides at 300 pounds and ready for the NFL

Another look at a former University of Louisville player hoping to get his name called later this week in the NFL Draft. Mario Benavides finished his career in the Sugar Bowl for the Cardinals but hopes he has plenty more games left in the NFL.

Mario Benavides lost more than 20 pounds prior to his senior season, playing the center position at 280 pounds for the Cardinals.

"I was listed at 280 but actually got down in the low 270s," Benavides said.

But as soon as the season ended and Benavides started talking to some of the pro scouts, the four-year standout for the Cardinals decided he needed to put some of the weight back on if he had hopes for pro ball.

So, now just three days from the opening day of the NFL Draft and Benavides sits at 302 pounds and is hoping to hear his name called. He was projected as a mid-round guy early in the process but said he's now a "bubble guy."

"The scouts said I had to have weight," Benavides said. "I definitely had to eat a lot of pizza in the weight-gain process. I ate a lot of healthy foods, a lot of vegetables, a lot of lean foods. Just a lot of food, but its all good."

Benavides, who started 47 career games and guided the Cardinals to the Sugar Bowl win last season, said he's talked to a bunch of teams and the chatter has been "all positive, I just have to wait and see."

After ending the season, Benavides went to Naples, Fla., and spent some time there training before coming back to Louisville.

He's been working out at U of L and was among those who participated in U of L's Pro Day last month before 20 NFL teams.

"Pro day was a chance for me to prove I can carry the weight," Benavides said. "Had I known it was going to be such a big issue, I wouldn't have lost the weight and I pretty much made that clear to the scouts.

"I felt great playing at the weight I was at last year but I'm fine now."

Benavides said he's heard "some good and some bad" things as far as his draft status, noting that it's a bit tougher for the center position.

"I always heard my play grade was third round," he said. "But only five or six centers get taken every year because each team has a center who has been around for a million years. I have heard third round and late in my training that I was a bubble guy – or a late-round guy. All of that is not based off my play, but it's based off questions about my size and my durability.

"But all it takes is for one team to fall in love with you."

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