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Punter Darren Bennett #2 of San Diego Chargers glances up as he ties his shoe during a break at Chargers' training camp July 29, 2003 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Darren Bennett was selected by the fans as the 36th Charger to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
For his teenage boys, it took Facebook for them to begin to appreciate the impact their dad has had on the game.
“They were quietly excited,” Bennett’s wife Rosemary Bennett said. “They were kind of young so this is kind of like, ‘oh, he did have a life in football.’”
Will Bennett got 72 ‘likes’ on his status, and Tom Bennett got 83 ‘likes.’ And that is how they determined how influential their father was.
Forget the fact that Bennett practically reinvented the game of punting. He came over from the Land Down Under with his Australian Rules Football style and transformed the NFL to what is now seen as commonplace.
Before Bennett, a ‘drop punt’ meant pretty much what it sounds like; the punter dropped the ball. Post-Bennett, a ‘drop-punt’ is almost necessary for any high school or college punter hoping to make his way in the big league.
He also developed what he called the "rocket punt" -- one that had a Falcons receiver scrambling an entire preseason game to figure out which way the ball was going.
His punting style was not the only Australian thing about him. Bennett called his teammates ‘mate,’ just like Junior Seau called everyone ‘buddy.’ And his accent was so thick, according to teammate John Carney he practically had to be translated.
One day, Carney remembered a practice where Bennett clocked 6-foot-2-inches 260-pound tight end Alfred Pupunu in practice.
“Al, being an island boy,” Carney reminisced. “Wasn’t too fond of that. You could hear Darren say, ‘G’day mate. Clocked you sweet didn’t I? You went down like a dead wombat.’”
“I only did it once,” Bennett said with a chuckle.
It was cherished memories and moments like that that endeared him to teammates and fans alike.
He was known for sticking up for teammates, he defended Carney one Sunday at a Raiders’ game from the heckling fans of the Black Hole. And he pushed everyone around him to their limits.
One day he convinced long snapper David Binn to bike to practice at Qualcomm Stadium with him. From Pacific Beach. Then do a full workout. Then bike home.
“Darren was miles ahead of me on the way home,” Binn remembered. “I’m going like 5 miles an hour into the wind.”
“His workout was way harder than mine too,” Bennett inserted with a mischievous grin on his face.
Bennett is the first Charger to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the fans. He held 51 percent of the almost 25,000 votes. Running back Natrone Means and wide receiver Anthony Miller split the rest of the votes.
Bennett will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame during halftime of the Nov. 25 game at the Q against the Baltimore Ravens.