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Texans draft CB Bennett after trade

When Fred Bennett was a freshman at South Carolina, there were some who doubted if he could be a cornerback in college.

His reverse gear was suspect.

"I wasn't real strong at backpedaling," Bennett said. "I was a tall, lanky guy and some people doubted me. They thought I was more of a safety, even some of the coaches thought that."

But Bennett got some help from a senior teammate then, and Sunday he joined that former teammate as the fourth-round draft pick of the Texans. The teammate was Dunta Robinson, who went on to become the Texans first-round pick in 2004.

Robinson was himself a former safety-turned-cornerback at South Carolina. He knew Bennett could be a corner.

"He worked with me," Bennett recalled. "He would stay after practice some days and work with me on my footwork and on my ball skills until I got this corner thing figured out.

"He helped me on my skills, my backpedaling and all that, and about the game of football."

Bennett became a solid college cornerback, starting 33 of the 48 games he played in at SC. As a senior, he made 37 tackles (28 solo), led the team in pass deflections with 11 and intercepted two passes as he won second-team All-SEC honors. Those 11 pass breakups ranked him in sixth place in the school's single-season record book, ironically, one place behind Robinson.

Bennett finished ahead of Robinson in career deflections with 24 for fourth place in Gamecocks history.

Robinson's help didn't stop that first year as the two became fast friends. "I know him really well," Bennett said. "I learned a lot from him. I was behind him when I was a freshman and he taught me a lot of stuff.

"Not just about football but about the college life, too. Hopefully he can teach me some things about the NFL too."

Robinson was even at SC's pro timing day last month, helping cheer Bennett on during his tests in front of the pro scouts. He ran a 4.47 40 that day and had a 36-inch vertical jump to go with squatting 365 pounds for an impressive day. But Robinson wasn't able to help him on that pro day.

"He had no clues," Bennett said. "The DB coach came in and worked me out and I did some things to impress him. But Dunta had no clue and I had no clue.

"They (the Texans) came in and worked me out on pro day so I felt like I showed them enough of what they were looking for in a corner. I felt like I had a pretty good pro day. I'm just happy they liked me."

And Bennett does believe it will be an advantage to play on the same team as his former college teammate.

"I think it will help tremendously," Bennett said. "I think he can show me the ropes in the NFL. He can help me with my plays.

"We've got a great relationship so I'm pretty sure he'll be there for me. I'm up for taking in whatever he has to tell me."

Bennett also likes the idea of being a Texan, even though he had to wait a long time to be drafted, finally going in the second day of the draft after the Texans made a trade with the New Orleans Saints.

"I was just excited when they called," Bennett said. "It was a long wait. I'm just excited to be a Houston Texan.

"I'm not disappointed (about going in the fourth round). I just wanted a chance to play in the NFL and I feel fortunate that the Houston Texans gave me that opportunity. I think I'm going to go out there and make the most of it.

"I was a little bit down at first but wherever the chips fell, I'll be happy. I'm just happy to be a Texan."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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