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Darren Bennett (born 9 January 1965 in Sydney, New South Wales) is a former Australian rules football player and American football punter in the National Football League.

As an Australian rules footballer, he played 12 seasons for two clubs. He is most notable for his career at the Melbourne Football Club, being named as one of the club's 150 Heroes of the last 150 years, kicking 215 goals despite playing just 74 games for the club.

As an American footballer, following a 3 club career in the National Football League he is regarded as one of the greatest players of the 1990s and a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.

This combination made him notable as arguably the most successful Australian sportsmen linked to professional American Football in history.

Contents

Early life

Bennett Grew up in Perth, Western Australia where he began playing Aussie Rules, first playing senior football with East Fremantle in the West Australian Football League.

Australian rules football career

Darren  Bennett
Personal information
Birth 9 January 1965 (1965-01-09) (age 45)Sydney, New South Wales
Recruited from East Fremantle Football Club
Height and weight 196cm / 106kg
Playing career¹
Debut Round 1, 1987, West Coast Eagles vs. Richmond, at Subiaco Oval, WA Australia
Team(s) West Coast Eagles (1987)

4 games, 7 goals

Melbourne (1989-1993)

74 games, 215 goals

¹ Statistics to end of 2006 season
Career highlights

  • Melbourne leading goalkicker 1989, 1990

Bennett was recruited by the Melbourne Football Club. He spent 12 years playing Aussie rules at elite level with the West Coast Eagles and Melbourne Demons in the VFL / AFL before retiring in 1993.

Bennett was known for kicking long goals, torpedo punts and taking strong marks.

Bennett began with the West Coast Eagles as part of their inaugural squad in 1987. A serious knee injury curtailed his career with the Eagles after four games. Released by the Eagles, he was drafted by the Melbourne Demons at the end of 1988. In both 1989 (34 goals) and 1990 (87 goals) Bennett led the Demons' goal kicking. Bennett's jersey usually carried a white stain on the front, which was merely resin that Bennett used to grip the ball better.

Some highlights of his career appeared in both VHS/DVD documentaries Miracle Marks and Golden Goals.

Bennett was regarded as one of Melbourne's finest players in the early 90's. But injuries caught up with him, and he played just two games in 1993. After the season, Bennett quietly retired from AFL, having totalled 78 games and 222 goals.

Bennett participated in an exhibition match at SkyDome in Toronto in 1989; it is believed that he was first exposed to American football during that trip.

NFL career

Darren Bennett
Replace this image male.svg
Position(s)
Punter
Jersey #(s)
2
Born 9 January 1965 (1965-01-09) (age 45)
Sydney, Australia
Career information
Year(s) 19932005
College No College
Professional teams
Career stats
Punts 836
Punting Yards 36,316
Punting Avg 43.4
Stats at NFL.com
Career highlights and awards

He married in 1994 and went on his honeymoon to California, where he contacted the coaching staff of the San Diego Chargers and asked for a tryout. He wound up impressing the Chargers sufficiently that he was placed on the team's practice squad for that season, although he did not play.

During the spring of 1995, the Chargers sent him to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, where he led the league in net punting average and earned all-league honors. That fall, he became the Chargers' regular punter. In his rookie season, he finished second in the NFL in punting average and made the AFC Pro Bowl team. He went on to establish himself as arguably the best punter in the NFL for the rest of the 1990s. Despite playing in the league for only half of that decade, he was named as the punter on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s.

On 7 August 1999 Bennett returned home with his adoptive sport and took part in Australia's first American Bowl in Sydney's brand new Stadium Australia versus the Denver Broncos.

Bennett was named to another Pro Bowl team in 2000, and continued to be one of the league's leading punters well into the 21st century. Going into the 2004 season, he had averaged 43.8 yards per punt, averaged 27 punts per season inside the 20-yard-line, and had only three blocked punts in his career (one of which happened when the Chargers had only 10 men on the field). As a former Aussie rules player, and considerably larger than most specialist kickers in American football (6'5"/1.96 m, 235 lb/106.5 kg), he did not shy away from physical contact on special teams. This willingness to hit, rare among kickers, was never more evident than when he knocked an opposing punt returner out cold in his rookie season. In 2004, after 144 games for the Chargers, he signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings, where he spent one season until being cut in September 2005. However, he was recalled by the team in December 2005, after starting punter Chris Kluwe (who had replaced him on the Vikings squad) was injured; Bennett was signed to a temporary contract.[1] He played one game before being released by the Vikings, having made what was likely his final NFL appearance after 15 Vikings games and a total of 159 NFL games.

Bennett is also credited for the introduction into the NFL of the "Aussie Rules kick" or "Drop Punt" as it is known in Australia. The technique was instrumental in the advancement of Australians into the NFL, and currently half of the punters in the NFL make use of the Aussie Rules punt in pooch-punt situations.

Personal

Bennett and his wife Rosemary divide their time between homes in the San Diego area and Melbourne. They have two sons, one of whom suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; Bennett is deeply involved with charities associated with that disease.

External links

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