Dec. 26, 2000
EL PASO, Texas - Four months ago, junior tailback Michael Bennett faced unyielding questions about whether he could replace Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne in Wisconsin's backfield.
Now he's barraged with constant queries about whether he'll follow Dayne to the NFL this March.
"It's a very big honor even to be fielding the questions, but I'm really not going to decide until after the Sun Bowl," Bennett said after Tuesday's practice in Wisconsin-like cold temperatures.
The Badgers (8-4) play UCLA (6-5) on Friday.
Although Bennett is mum on the matter, he understands everybody's curiosity about whether he'll declare for the NFL draft a year early.
"Nobody knew what to expect from me this year, and then I became a 30-carry-a-game guy. I mean, I had a great season," Bennett said. "I didn't expect all this professional talk until next year. But it arrived early and it's just something to think about."
And he swears he hasn't given it enough thought to have made a decision.
"I'll have more information about that once the bowl game is over and I'll have to sit down and make up my mind," Bennett said.
In his first year as a starter, Bennett, a track star who skipped the Olympic track trials to concentrate on football, finished third nationally with 1,598 yards rushing. He scored 10 touchdowns in 10 games and his nearly 160-yard average was less than 10 yards shy of Dayne's average last year.
Bennett also set a school record by rushing for 258 yards in one half against Oregon, which entered the game with the NCAA's top-rated rushing defense.
Bennett is a four-time Big Ten sprint champion who has always been torn between track & field and football.
"I always knew growing up that I wanted to do both sports no matter what, and growing up I developed a great passion for both sports," Bennett said. "And now I'm able to excel at both of them."
But don't even try to pigeonhole him as a track burner who plays football.
"When it's football season, I'm a football guy. When it's track season, I'm a track guy," Bennett said. "And when it's time to lay back and have fun and go to sleep, then I'm that type of guy, too."
And whatever he decides about his football future, Bennett swears he's not finished making his mark on college athletics.
"Regardless of whatever I do, I'll still be running track" this spring, he said.
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer