The Granddaddy of Them All. The Rose Bowl.
PASADENA, CA - January 6, 2014.
Kelvin Benjamin hit the ground, and it appeared he had caught the ball. Impossible to know from my seat - behind the other end zone. For all its beauty and grandeur, the Rose Bowl is still a very shallow bowl.
But it looked like he had caught the ball. FSU was on the goal line, I formation, two tight ends, a fullback - heavy, goal line set. Jameis Winston took the snap under center, faked play action and threw off his back foot while hopping to avoid an Auburn rusher. Kelvin Benjamin went well up in the air, using all of his 6”6’ frame to grab Winston’s lob.
And it looked like he caught it. But the referee, in the infinite wisdom of Big Ten referees, took four steps towards Benjamin.
Those four steps were an eternity.
He (finally) raised his arms, signaling the go ahead touchdown with just fourteen seconds left on the clock. Pandemonium. On one side of the Rose Bowl, all over Tallahassee, and over all of the state of Florida (one small town in Central Florida excluded).
Kelvin Benjamin had caught the game-winning touchdown in the final BCS National Championship Game. Kelvin Benjamin had caught the touchdown that won Florida State’s third national championship.
Kelvin Benjamin’s legacy will always be intertwined with this moment.
Benjamin did much more than just that, however.
Kelvin Benjamin arrived as another talented prospect from the Muck. A product of Glades Central High School, coached by former FSU great Jessie Hester, Benjamin was a four star receiver prospect.
He arrived over the normal weight expected of a wide receiver, even one of his tall stature. Being over 240 pounds meant Benjamin was forced to redshirt his true freshman year.
Benjamin had breakout moments in his second year campaign. 495 yards and four touchdowns will do that. He showed promise against an abject Savannah State, scoring two touchdowns. The 2012 season was a litany of small moments that showed Benjamin had potential.
Boy, did he have potential.
The 2013 season will go down in FSU fans’ memories not just as a great season, but as the greatest team FSU has ever put on the gridiron. Benjamin was a critical part of it.
Benjamin notched his first 100-yard game against Boston College in a game that showed the resiliency that would come to define the 29 game win streak FSU enjoyed around the 2013 season.
Then he set the tone for a 51-14 drubbing of Clemson in the hosts’ worst home defeat in history:
Benjamin’s soaring, turning grab gave FSU momentum after a first drive turnover, and that was all she wrote. The race for the ACC was locked up, and FSU was in the catbird’s seat for the national title race.
Benjamin finished with a 1000 yard season, which included some absolutely demoralizing moments in his 200+ yard performance against the Florida Gators:
The pros saw the talent Benjamin had. They knew what a 6’6” frame with this athleticism could do.
Drafted by the Carolina Panthers with the 28th pick overall, Benjamin enjoyed a strong start to his NFL career. Injuries have hampered him in recent years, but he will always be fondly remembered by FSU fans.
Kelvin Benjamin gave Seminole fans moments like Clemson, and Florida. He gave Glades residents tons of reasons to be proud. He gave FSU the pivotal play in a national championship game. Benjamin will forever be a Seminole legend.