Vanderbilt WR Earl Bennett Headed To NFL

Bennett leaves as the SEC's leading receiver with 236 catches

Jan. 10, 2008

NFL Draft Early Entrants

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett announced Thursday he will pass up a final year of eligibility and make himself available for the NFL draft.

Bennett leaves as the leading receiver in Southeastern Conference history with 236 catches in three seasons. He has 28 more catches than Craig Yeast, who played four years at Kentucky.

"If I came back, there was always a risk that I could get injured," Bennett said. "There were a lot of pluses and a lot of minuses. I couldn't go wrong with my decision whether I came back or whether I left."

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said he supported Bennett's decision to skip his senior season.

"This is one of the great things about America. You've got choices to make," Johnson said. "I have no doubts that Earl will be a fantastic player in the NFL."

Bennett did have incentive to stay: a chance to break the NCAA Division I Bowl Subdivision reception record. He would have needed 81 catches next season to pass Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield, who finished with 316.

"It's not all about records," Bennett said. "It's about your character and how you carry yourself on and off the field. Hopefully, people will remember me by my character."

Bennett finished 2007 with 75 receptions for 830 yards and five touchdowns. He is the only receiver in SEC history to have three 75-catch seasons.

Bennett has 20 career touchdown catches and ranks ninth in league history with 2,852 yards receiving.

In his freshman year, Bennett set an SEC record with 79 catches for 876 yards and nine touchdowns with current Denver Broncos starter Jay Cutler at quarterback for Vanderbilt.

"I had a great three years at Vanderbilt," Bennett said. "There's nowhere I would have rather been."