Vikings running backs coach Eric Bienemy has become the model for what every coaching staff, college or pro, needs.
What’s special about Bienemy is the diverse mixture of experience he brings. His resume for credibility and respect speak for themselves.
Beginning as an undersized overachiever as a college football player at Colorado, he had a stellar career for the Buffs, finishing third in the nation’s Heisman Trophy balloting in 1990.
From there he went on to a modestly successful but solid pro career (photo) as a player. He played in the NFL for nine seasons with San Diego (1991-94), Cincinnati (1995-98) and Philadelphia (1999). In 142 games he rushed for 1,589 yards on 387 carries (4.1 avg.) with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 146 passes for 1,223 yards (8.4 avg.).
To some degree his pro career was highlighted by earning one of the All-Time Classic Chris Berman nicknames: Eric “Sleeping With” Bienemy.
His promising coaching career began when he returned to his alma mater at Colorado in 2000 to become one of the nation’s top recruiters and running backs coaches in the country. His running backs amassed over 3,000 yards in 2002 with the Buffs. While at CU upon his return as a coach, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 2001.
He left Colorado for his hometown of Los Angeles to build UCLA’s offensive backfield from 2003-05, where he developed Maurice Jones-Drew as a running, pass receiver and kick return specialist.
Like Bienemy himself, Jones-Drew was considered too small, yet he made an immediate impact as a pro with the Jacksonville Jaguars this past season. As a rookie Jones-Drew rushed for 941 yards on 166 carries (5.7 avg.) with 13 touchdowns, including seven runs of 20 yards or more with a 74-yard long. He also caught 46 passes for 436 yards (9.5 avg.) and 2 TDs, while averaging 27.7 on kickoff returns, including another touchdown; all this, despite starting just one game.
There’s no telling the key role Bienemy played in the development of Jones-Drew as a college player to go onto that kind of success, but it shouldn’t go without notice.
Bienemy’s role and contribution at the college level has become the blueprint for successful college programs.
What every successful college football program needs is an 'Eric Bienemy.' A guy who knows the culture of his alma mater and home region, has his college degree, a NFL resume as a player, and is 'down' with today's youth.
Those same characteristics are what make Bienemy an effective pro coach with the Vikings today. Bienemy was one of the first hires Brad Childress made when he got the Vikings’ job, and it’s clear as to why.
Bienemy was originally born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He married the former Mia Maxie, and they have two children, Eric III and Elijah.