Saturday will mark two weeks since former Texas running back Cedric Benson passed away in a motorcycle accident.
As the Longhorn community continues to mourn Benson’s passing, Texas Football announced its plan to wear a No. 32 decal on the back of their helmets in honor of one of the best backs in school history.
“I think there was kind of a fog over the team the day Cedric passed because of the way he carried himself as a person (and) as a player here,” junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “Everyone knew how special he was and what he meant to the University. Our thoughts are definitely with his family and friends, it was something you never want to see and we’re obviously going to wear 32 in his honor on our helmets. That’ll never be a thought that leaves this team.”
Although it has been 15 years since Longhorn fans last saw Benson play at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, his legacy lives on. That was made clear by the program’s reaction to the tragic news.
“Obviously when you lose someone to an accident that young, there’s no other word than tragic that comes to mind,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said during Monday’s presser. “Cedric was one of the best that’s ever played here and he’s (going to) be missed by a lot.”
Benson was a high school standout and, once at Texas, an obvious Heisman candidate. At Midland Lee, he tallied 8,423 career rushing yards and led his team to three-consecutive 5A state titles. At Texas, he ran for 5,540 career rushing yards from 2001-2004, which ranks tenth in NCAA Division I history.
Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger watched Benson play from a young age. Though they never personally met, Benson left an impression on Ehlinger as he did with the rest of the Longhorn faithful.
“It was incredible, growing up, being able to see a guy compete like that, the way he ran the football, and the passion that he played the game of football (with),” Ehlinger said. “From what I’ve heard it correlated with his life — he loved life, he was a special person.”
In a locker room in which the oldest player was just eight years old when Benson wrapped up his Texas career, the primary memory most would have of the star running back was what they saw on television growing up. Yet the ripples of his passing are still profoundly felt throughout the team.
For a player like senior defensive lineman Malcolm Roach, this number takes on a new meaning. Roach has sported the No. 32 on his jersey for the entirety of his Texas career. What was once just a jersey number now represents something much more.
“It really didn’t hit me until we got our jerseys in the locker room a few days ago, trying them on,” Roach said. “Just seeing that jersey, I was like, ‘Man.’ Just seeing the number 32 all over the TV, just knowing he’s a Longhorn legend, country-wide legend. Being able to wear that number and have something in common I feel like is big.”
As the Longhorns await the kickoff to their season opener against Louisiana Tech, they will hold a moment of silence in honor of Benson. With 32 on the back of every helmet, the Longhorn faithful in attendance on Saturday night will feel Cedric Benson’s presence at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium one more time.