The day was April 26, 2013. The setting was the second day of the Philadelphia Eagles, mired in the 2013 NFL draft that would likely make or break the first year of new head coach Chip Kelly. Despite a team coming from a disappointing 4-12 season, the team had only been mildly active in free agency. The team was betting the house on the draft.
Day one had gone as scripted. Despite the rumors of interest in quarterback with mixed reviews, Philly selected tackle Lane Johnson to solidify the offensive line. And earlier in day two, they once more addressed the needs of the new offense by selecting tight end Zach Ertz.
But the fans were getting nervous. With a defense converting to a 3-4 scheme, and with a 2012 season still fresh in their minds, there was a building urgency to select any number of impact players who could immediately impact on the defensive side of the ball. Most of the popular hope for that third pick lie in the defensive backfield – perhaps a cornerback or safety. Many were certain the Eagles would announce Geno Smith, who was projected by some to be the first round selection and was still available in round three. But in the announcement of Bennie Logan as the 67th pick of the NFL draft, Philly said more about what their team would be than with any press statement prior to that point.
Bennie Logan is the son of Bennie Frost and Sandra Logan, Bennie Logan has seven siblings – Lacey, Jeremy, Corey, Adrian, Jessica, Carl and Mark. Bennie Logan lost his mother, Sandra, in the fifth grade. Bennie grew up in a small town of Coushatta, La., population 1,934 (2012 US census). Major League Baseball All-Star first basemen Joe Adcock and WNBA player Vickie Johnson also called Coushatta their home town.
Despite a football career that included being two-time all-state selection at Red River High School in Coushatta, Logan struggled to get the eye of college football recruiters. Bennie Logan eventually had to choose among LSU, Nebraska, and Michigan. He headed for Baton Rouge to play for the LSU Tigers, with a chip on his shoulder.
The 23-year-old played alongside Michael Brockers (selected in the first round by the St. Louis Rams in 2012) Barkevious Mingo at LSU – a second-team All-SEC selection who was taken in the first round (sixth overall) by the Cleveland Browns in the 2013 draft – as well as defensive end Sam Montgomery, a first-team All-SEC pick who was taken later in the third round (selected 95th overall) by the Houston Texans. Admittedly, Bennie played unselfishly. He loved to do whatever his coaches asked of him. Showing his blue collar work ethic, it was uncommon for an LSU starter to volunteer for special team duties, but Logan embraced that role and rewarded the staff by blocking three kicks during his last two seasons. His college play was so noticeably selfless and team motivated that he was awarded the right to don the prestigious No. 18 jersey.
The jersey number, 18, which has become synonymous with success both on and off the field, originated in 2003 when LSU quarterback Matt Mauck led the school to its first National Championship since 1958.Bennie’s teammates were often the newsmakers, recording sacks and sports stories. Meanwhile Bennie continued to chew up blockers, and led the defensive linemen in tackles in 2012 with 45. His play was sometimes missed by NFL scouts, who had Bennie Logan rated as low as the fifth round. But for some scouts who look at film, he wasn’t missed. Mike Mayock analyzes prospects in days leading up the the draft. Mayock discussed Logan:
“He may be a better pro than he was a college player. And he was a very good college player. He’s going to go in the second or third round.”
One other eye he caught was the now head coach of our beloved Eagles. Logan started his first game in 2011 against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks. He said the two talked about it at the Combine, and Kelly remembered having to account for the defensive tackle at the time. Kelly discussed the Eagles third round pick:
“We played Bennie two years ago in the opening game (in 2011). You really had to know where he was on the field. They had a great defensive line with him and Mingo and Montgomery and a couple of other guys. … They’re known. We went down there and the one thing you know about the Southeastern Conference is the defensive linemen and that’s kind of what I think sets it apart. Certainly I had a real familiarity with him. It helps getting a chance to go against him, you see his motor and how hard he plays. It gives you a little bit of insight. When we got to the combine, I got an opportunity – he was on our list to interview. He was certainly someone who – I’d rather have on my side than go against him, I can tell you that. We think he has the ability to be a three-down player. I think he’s stout against the run, but I also think on third down he can be an inside pass rusher for us. So that’s what we really like about him. Getting him [in the third round], we were really fortunate. We had him in the second round and we were fortunate to get him.”
The Eagles had signed NT Isaac Sopoaga in free agency, but were willing to consider the right prospect to groom as his replacement. When Bennie was there in round three, the Eagles jumped on him. In the initial weeks of the Eagles defense, players were learning the new system and the coaches were learning the players. And Bennie? He was learning the humbling art of … patience.
“It’s been a while since I didn’t play a lot or start. It was a little frustrating. And it was humbling — a humbling experience, to be honest. But you just have to be patient and everything will work itself out.”
And it has, so far. At the end of October, Eagles’ defensive coordinator Bill Davis had seen enough of Bennie’s potential in platooning with Sopoaga, that he felt it was time to start Bennie, and enable the trade of Sopoaga to the New England Patriots. Perhaps coincidentally, that was the same time that Philly began their current winning streak. And much like his college days, a coach calls his number, and Bennie steps up:
“It’s been different. It was a challenge for me. They traded Isaac, and I understood that the role was on me to step up my game and perform. I didn’t want to let the other 10 guys on the field down. I studied more film. I practiced hard, and I got myself ready to play more snaps. The opportunity is something I’ve been waiting for. Now it’s here.”
Logan has responded. Each week his presence is felt as he collapses the pocket, forcing quarterbacks to move towards the outside and within reach of Trent Cole, Conner Barwin, Brandon Graham, or Vinnie Curry. The team has been improving each week on defense. Bennie is indeed taking this opportunity to solidify his role on the defense. In fact, the opportunity is there for the defensive line, and the team, to achieve a level of success denied to them in 2011 and in 2012. This year, the team is in a position to control its own destiny for post season play. This year, they are 7-5 and playing very good football. This year, their chemistry is coming together at the right time of the year.
Let’s hope Logan continues to do what he does best. His selfless play makes his teammates around him better. And that’s all we can ask for from our nose tackle.