GLENDALE, AZ — The highlight of an otherwise pedestrian preseason football game in Glendale Friday night was seeing Eno Benjamin shine in his long-awaited NFL debut.
"It was a great feeling. Everything about tonight felt great," said Benjamin. "Just going out there with my teammates, being back here in Arizona was also another thing that made that transition a little bit easier as far as suiting up for tonight."
Benjamin has been waiting to put on a game jersey for nearly two full years. The last time he was able to do that was November 30, 2019.
"I just remember it was against the team down south," he said with a smile. "It was a really good game. We won, so can't get much better than that."
Benjamin had two touchdowns and 168 yards rushing in a Territorial Cup victory that night in Tempe. Five months later, he was selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
However, with no preseason football last season due to the pandemic, the former ASU star running back had no real opportunity to make his mark in the NFL.
"I guess it's just a transition that you've got to prepare for," Benjamin said of being inactive all 16 games last year. "It was the same way in high school coming out as a highly-recruited guy, to going behind Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage at the time. I kind of took it as a redshirt year, just to mentally prepare, physically come back better."
Benjamin took full advantage of his opportunity Friday night, racking up the longest player from scrimmage in the game, a 38-yard run, and the Cardinals' only touchdown.
"We've always known what he can do when the ball is in his hands," said Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. "He's a dynamic runner, has great vision, great feet, exceptional for the position. Last year was unfortunate for him, that he didn't get those preseason reps, but he's done a really nice job in camp. Much more focused, much more dialed in, and is playing at a high level."
Winning the job for that third running back spot means a role on special teams. Benjamin was on a punt return and kickoff coverage, in addition to returning kicks for the first time since he was a freshman at ASU.
Sun Devils fans have been waiting for Eno to get his shot, and against the Cowboys, he did not disappoint.
"I just know I'm gonna go out there and do everything that is asked to the best of my ability," Benjamin said. "However it shakes out, it's gonna shake out."