UK Football

Benny Snell under microscope at combine. See what NFL likes best about Kentucky star.

Behind the scenes with Benny Snell on the flaming sledgehammer photo shoot

UK running back Benny Snell Jr. is featured on the cover of the Herald-Leader's 2018 college football preview section. See how photographers Alex Slitz and Mark Mahan put it all together.
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UK running back Benny Snell Jr. is featured on the cover of the Herald-Leader's 2018 college football preview section. See how photographers Alex Slitz and Mark Mahan put it all together.

As of Thursday afternoon, the most unusual question asked of Benny Snell during team interviews at the NFL Combine wasn’t all that unusual: What is a time you’ve overcome major adversity?

He was shy with media about one of the answers he’s given teams — “I don’t think I want to say that,” he said with a grin — but quickly pivoted to another instance familiar with anyone who’s closely followed the University of Kentucky’s career rushing leader: The Wildcats’ 27-16 win over Florida last September.

“I told ’em about the Florida game, when kind of how it was an even game going into halftime,” Snell said. “At halftime I was like, ‘Yo we gotta do this,’ cause we were making stupid penalties, we were jumping offside, doing this, that and the third. We were beating ourselves. …

“We go on, come out in the second half and executed. I seen the cameras flashing, the lights, I was like, ‘Ah, yeah, we about to do this.’ So I had fun doing it, and we completed it. I told ’em about that.”

Snell finished with 3,873 rushing yards on 737 carries in three seasons at UK. That’s ample more yardage than running backs ranked ahead of Snell in most mock drafts — Josh Jacobs (Alabama), Damien Harris (Alabama/Madison Southern), Devin Singletary (Florida Atlantic) and David Montgomery (Iowa State) — but also the heaviest work load. Only Montgomery, who rushed for 2,925 yards on 624 carries, came close to approaching Snell’s amount of college carries; Jacobs (251) and Harris (477) combined fall nine short.

NFL teams with whom Snell has spoken aren’t worried about that, he said.

“Actually, I’ve been admired for that,” Snell said. “ … All my three years at Kentucky, I never got hurt. A lot of running backs can’t say that. So I was blessed enough to do that. With me handling the work load that I got and everything that I accomplished, I still had no injuries. They’ve seen that, and that’s a blessing.”

The biggest questions about Snell regard his speed and pass-catching ability. Snell has times in mind he’d like to meet during his Friday drills, but would not share those marks with reporters. He said while at UK he would “catch 100 balls” in practices to work on his catching ability, and continues to put in work on that part of his game. He’s talked to “a ton” of NFL teams this week, and confirmed that he interviewed with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets.

The questions he most often receives are along the lines of “What kind of player are we getting?” and “Where do you see yourself at the end of your career?”

“My answers are usually like, ‘I want a few Super Bowls under my belt,’” Snell said. “‘I want to be a Pro Bowler. I wanna say I was able to be blessed enough to be a Hall of Famer. I wanna have multiple thousand-yard seasons. I want to be a starter. I just go down the line, and they’re impressed.”

Before he can win a Super Bowl, Snell needs to make a roster. He would again play the role of streak-buster just by being selected come April: A UK running back has not been drafted into the NFL since Artose Pinner was selected by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round of the 1999 draft; the program is 0-for-4 (Rafael Little, Derrick locke, Braylon Heard, Boom Williams) since. Snell is projected as a round 3-4 pick ahead of combine-drill day.

If he has his way, it’ll be a show.

“I’m very ready,” Snell said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming about ever since I was a young one. I’m excited. I don’t want to overthink it. I just want to be Benny Snell out on the field. He’s great when he just plays football, so I just want to play football and have fun.”

Snell continues to speak of himself in the third person with media — and during team interviews.

“I go third person with whoever I’m with,” Snell said with a grin.

NFL Combine on TV

Friday: 9 a.m. (NFL Network)

Saturday: 10 a.m. (NFL Network), 1 p.m. (ABC-36)

Sunday: 9 a.m. (NFL Network)

Monday: 9 a.m. (NFL Network)

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Josh Moore is a digital sports reporter who specializes in preps coverage. He’s in his fourth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore graduated with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English from the University of Kentucky in 2013.