Johnson, Benson Earn Playboy Preseason Honors

LB <B>Derrick Johnson</B> and RB <B>Cedric Benson</B> will be honored this weekend as members of the 48th Annual <I>Playboy</I> Preseason All-America Football team. Both will travel to Phoenix on Friday to join other members of the squad for a weekend of events and the annual photo shoot.

"It's a great honor to not only be recognized as a Playboy All-American, but to be on such a short list of Texas players that have accomplished it twice," Derrick Johnson said. "I'm really looking forward to being a part of the event again and especially having the opportunity to spend time with all of the other All-Americans from around the country."

The only returnee from last year's Butkus Award (nation's top LB) finalists, Johnson is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. He has tallied 328 tackles (208 solo), 46 tackles for loss (T-No. 9 on the UT all-time list), 8.5 sacks, 29 QB pressures, 22 PBUs (a UT record for LBs), eight interceptions (T-No. 1 on UT's interceptions by a LB list) and six fumble recoveries (T-No. 7 on UT's career list) in 38 career games (28 starts).

Last season, he posted a team-high 125 tackles and 20 TFLs en route to becoming Texas' first-ever Butkus Award finalist and its first consensus first-team All-American linebacker since Jeff Leiding in 1983. His four interceptions in 2003 tied the UT season record by a linebacker.

Johnson became just the second player in UT history to earn a spot among the Butkus Award semifinalists as a sophomore after posting 120 tackles, 13 TFLs, a school-record tying four interceptions (T-No. 1 on UT's single-season interceptions by a LB list) and 10 pass breakups. He was The Sporting News' National Freshman of the Year and the Big 12 co-Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2001.

Johnson will be recognized as a member of the squad for the second straight year, marking the Longhorns' first two-time Playboy All-American since Johnnie Johnson in 1978-79. He joins Johnson, Russell Erxleben (1977-78) and Jerry Sisemore (1971-72) as just the fourth player in UT history to earn Playboy All-America honors twice during their careers.

"I made a lot of friends there last year and am eager to get to know this year's group," Johnson said. "It will be the first time for Cedric, and I've been telling him how much fun he's going to have."

Cedric Benson enters 2003 as the nation's top returning rusher statistically. His 3,706 career rushing yards (No. 3 on the UT all-time list) and 45 rushing TDs (No. 2 on the UT career list) in 37 games (31 starts) are tops among NCAA Div. I-A players. He is the only NCAA Div. I-A back that has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. His 4,148 career all-purpose yards rank sixth on the UT all-time list.

"He’s bigger (220 pounds) and probably in the best shape that he’s been in since he’s been here," head coach Mack Brown recently told Inside Texas. "He’s work so hard on the upper body and he was a leader during the off-season program."

Benson rushed for 1,360 yards (No. 5 on UT's single-season list) and 21 TDs (No. 3 on UT's single-season list) en route to consensus first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior. He ranked second nationally in scoring (11.17 ppg) in 2003. Benson rushed for 1,002 yards (167 ypg) and 14 TDs over the Horns' last six games and he rushed for a TD in his last seven contests.

"He’s really buying into the overall concept of being the best running back in the country," Brown said.

Benson earned third-team All-Big 12 honors after rushing for 1,293 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore. A first-team Freshman All-American and the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2001, Benson rushed for a UT freshman record 1,053 yards and 12 TDs that year.

Texas has now had a Playboy Preseason All-American 41 (38 players/three head coaches) times since the team was first honored in 1957. Johnson is the third Longhorn linebacker and Benson is the fifth UT running back to be named to the squad. The Longhorns have had at least one player selected to the team in each of the past seven seasons, including two players on the last four squads. Among that group, Johnson, OG Derrick Dockery (2002), DE Cory Redding (2002), CB Quentin Jammer (2001), OT Mike Williams (2001), OT Leonard Davis (2000) and RB Ricky Williams (1998) have all earned post-season first-team All-American honors.

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