NEW YORK, NY-- Not twenty-four hours after the 2006 NFC Champion Chicago Bears selected former Commodore captain Chris Williams with the 14th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Bears grabbed another former Vanderbilt standout when they selected three-time coaches All-SEC first team wide receiver Earl Bennett with the seventh pick in the third round and 70th selection overall.
Finishing his career as one of the Southeastern Conference's most productive receivers, the Birmingham (Ala.) native set a new conference record in career receptions with 236 catches in just three years of play.
He becomes the first Commodore receiver to be selected in the draft since Carl Parker was taken in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988. He third round selection ranks as the second best selection of a Vanderbilt receiver. All-American Chuck Scott was a second round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985.
"Earl's production on the field was amazing," Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson said of Bennett. "Every team we faced focused on slowing Earl and he still produced at a remarkable level. From the minute he stepped on the field as a true freshman, Earl impacted our team."
"He's a great route runner," Chicago Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told ChicagoBears.com after the selection. "He's got excellent hands and he's very good after the catch. On top of that, his character is impeccable. If you watch the tape, he comes up big every game. He was their go-to-guy. Everybody knew that's who they were going to throw to ... yet he still came up with big catches.
"He's great in traffic. He's great after he has the ball in his hands. He's got good concentration. He has very good hands. He's a very good route runner.
"We see him as having starter talent," Gabriel continued. "Whether he becomes a starter as a rookie, that remains to be seen. But we see him as a guy who has starter talent. We graded him as such."
"We'll give him an opportunity to come in and compete right away," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's a very intelligent young man, so he shouldn't have any trouble picking things up. He's very competitive, so I know he'll enjoy coming in and competing."