It’s hard to imagine Benjamin being more dangerous than he was late in 2013. He finished the season with 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns receiving and was especially effective in his final three games — with 18 catches for 385 yards and six TDs. He made the game-winning grab with 13 seconds left as FSU came back to defeat Auburn 34-31 in the BCS title game.
Benjamin is also a relative newcomer to the sport, having picked up football late, and has played just five years combined at the high school and college levels. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday that the best is yet to come from Benjamin.
“I have a lot to learn,” said Benjamin, 23, who is entering the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season. “I’m still young to the game. That’s what I plan on doing when I get to an organization — learn from the veterans.”
About 20 former FSU standouts worked out inside the team’s indoor practice facility Tuesday in front of coaches and front office personnel who represented all 32 NFL teams. Among the head coaches in attendance were Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, Detroit’s Jim Caldwell and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer.
It was a strong turnout as NFL teams are looking at what could be another deep draft class. A school-record 11 FSU players were drafted in April 2013, and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock thinks six Seminoles could be among the top 100 players selected in the May 8-10 draft.
Benjamin said he accomplished what he wanted Tuesday.
“That’s one of the harder workouts I ever had in my life,” Benjamin said. “It was fun. I thought I did pretty good.”
Benjamin and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan are considered the Noles’ top two draft prospects. Both are expected to be taken either in the middle of or late in the first round.
Jernigan said he felt blessed to be in the position to be drafted as he chases a life-long dream.
“My mom actually saved a picture that I drew in church, when I was in third grade, of an NFL player,” Jernigan said. “It’s actually the screen saver on my phone.”
Jernigan, who had 63 tackles and 11 tackles for loss as a junior in 2013, has impressed as one of the draft’s top defensive tackles, a run-stopper who can also pressure the quarterback. He said participating at the NFL combine in February helped him prepare for Florida State’s pro day Tuesday.
He has added about 10 pounds in the past few months and weighed in at 305. But he has also been focusing on his speed and agility in Orlando with pre-draft trainer Tom Shaw.
“I feel like they wanted to see how well did I move,” Jernigan said. “I feel like I did a good job.”
While the day is often about every minute detail from height to weight to 40 times and bench press reps, it’s really about making an impression on someone. So often, the numbers aren’t as important.
When asked what time he ran in the 40, All-America center Bryan Stork quipped, “I’m like a gazelle. I heard 5.25 and 5.31. Who knows? I’m a ballplayer and not a track athlete.”
One former FSU player who is trying to get another chance is cornerback Greg Reid, who last wore a Noles uniform in 2011. Reid had 97 tackles and seven interceptions from 2009-11 before being dismissed due to a violation of team rules before the 2012 season.
Reid landed at Valdosta State but suffered a knee injury in the preseason. After a second knee surgery in 2013, he was back on FSU’s campus Tuesday, running and participating in drills along with his old teammates.
“I believe I’m a better man than I was two or three years ago,” Reid said. “I’m blessed to be here and blessed to feel the way I feel. … Eight months ago, I was laying up in a hospital bed. All I need is one shot.”