Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Just the Facts: Bennett's Calling Nfl, Not NBA

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Just the Facts: Bennett's Calling Nfl, Not NBA

Article excerpt

ATLANTA - Martellus Bennett often reflects on what could have happened had he taken a different path to professional athletics.

When NBA highlights flash across the television screen, the Giants' tight end, whose knack for storytelling matches his physical gifts on the football field, is quick to point out what might have been on the hardwood.

Bennett has bragged to the media about having a better handle than Carmelo Anthony and to his teammates of the time he knocked down 67 jump shots consecutively during a workout with the then- Seattle SuperSonics prior to the 2005 NBA Draft.

Or so Martellus says.

Yes, before he went to Texas A&M to play football on scholarship, Bennett applied for early entrance into the NBA Draft when he was a senior at Alief Taylor High School in Houston.

He did not hire an agent, however, and when scouts projected he would not be taken until the second round, Bennett pulled his name out of consideration and went to college.

Turns out the grandiose delusions of his hoop dream deferred are not so outrageous after all.

"I'll be honest - I bet there's more fact than fiction," Jeff Durnford, who coached Bennett in high school at Taylor, said in a phone interview this week. "We all know Martellus can tell a story and there's probably a little exaggeration, but he was a really good high school basketball player and he had really good basketball instincts. ... His skill level was raw still; he made up for it with physical ability.

"But he was a guy whom had he committed to basketball I think he would be playing in the NBA right now. I do believe that."

"If you give him a stage," Durnford added, "he'll perform."

Count some of Bennett's teammates with the Giants among those needing convincing that his basketball tale is more than part of the act.

"He's told us stories of how people back home in playground games still pick him even though he's not there, just in case he shows up," Victor Cruz said with a laugh. "You want to believe it, but it just sounds so far-fetched, it's just like, 'That can't be true.' "

Added Domenik Hixon: "I want him to see if he can hit two three- pointers in a row, let alone the 40 or whatever the number he says he hit during his NBA workouts.

"Shoot, probably the first day I met him he was talking about his basketball legend."

In the Giants' reality, Bennett continues to emerge as the football player they hoped he'd be when the former Cowboys tight end signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with them.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has five touchdown receptions in 13 games with Big Blue, including two in the last two weeks heading into today's showdown of NFC kingpins against the 11-2 Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

He had four touchdown catches in four previous seasons in Dallas.

"There are a lot of things I can do better," said Bennett, 25. …

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