As Eno Benjamin prepared for his pro day – an event, scheduled for March 16, that never happened because of the coronavirus – he got a chance to meet some of his future teammates at a workout.
Benjamin, the Arizona State running back picked by the Cardinals in the seventh round, didn't know they'd be teammates. But former ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins called some of his friends for the spring session at ASU's practice bubble, and among the Cardinals who came were wide receiver Christian Kirk and running back Chase Edmonds.
"We got to chat for a little bit," Edmonds said. "I personally felt like (the Cardinals) would take a back (in the draft) but I didn't think it would be him because I thought he'd be gone by then."
Benjamin did too, frankly, figuring he'd be a third- or maybe a fourth-round pick. But Wednesday, in a Zoom press conference with local media, Benjamin said he had no regrets leaving ASU after his junior season after falling so late in the draft.
"I understand that football is one day going to be over knowing as far as my shelf life, at my position, doesn't last long," Benjamin said. "However long football lasts me – hopefully the next 10 or 15 years – I have a degree in my back pocket and I'll be willing to step out and conquer the real world."
That's the mature thinking that the Cards wanted to bring into the locker room and, in this case, into the running back room. There is perhaps no position in the NFL more volatile on a year-to-year basis than running back, with most teams preferring not to spend at the position believing replacements are relatively easy to find.
Of course, the Cards and coach Kliff Kingsbury found out last season that replacements are often needed. Injuries took David Johnson and Edmonds down. The Cards were forced to trade for Kenyan Drake, who turned out to be a perfect fit – but once Johnson was traded to Houston in March, the Cardinals needed another back.
Drake will be the starter. Edmonds, who starred in a 126-yard, three-touchdown performance in New York last season, will get a chance to be No. 2. Benjamin will attempt to supplant another former Sun Devil, D.J. Foster, as No. 3.
"We wanted to bring in a young guy who could learn from two backs we are very high on, be a productive part of the team," Kingsbury said. "We think Eno fits that need."
Benjamin cited Edmonds' role when Drake and Johnson were on the roster as his goal, doing whatever might be needed and the knowledge he has to earn such a spot.
He does like the idea that he knows Kingsbury some, with the coach having recruited Benjamin in high school when Kingsbury was coaching at Texas Tech. Kingsbury has joked a few times about drafting players that had turned him down when he was recruiting them in college, a notion that made Benjamin smile.
"I think I'm a guy who is all about relationships," Benjamin said. "I don't burn those. There are a lot of coaches who, I didn't go to their school, but I think I still have really good relationships with, who from time to time I reach out to or they reach out to me wishing me luck. He was one of those guys.
"The fact he recruited me and now he's able to come back and get me in the league is phenomenal."
It won't hurt that Benjamin, as limited as it might have been, has had some interaction with new teammates. (Benjamin hasn't met Drake in person, but Drake did reach out to him after he was drafted to welcome him to the team.)
"We never talked about being teammates but I think he's a great addition," Kirk said. "I think his best attribute is his contact balance. He never goes down from the first hit.
"I've watched him his whole career and I'm happy to have him on the team."