All football players dream of making it to the Hall of Fame.
Mount Greylock graduate Jake Benzinger is hoping his NFL career gets its start in Canton, Ohio.
This week, the offensive lineman out of Wake Forest University signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
“I was home in Williamstown for the holidays and a little while afterward,” he said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I was actually visiting my girlfriend in Dallas when I got the call that Indy was interested probably a week ago.
“On Monday, I flew out there. It all happened pretty fast.”
Benzinger, who last spring signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals, worked out with the Colts on Tuesday and signed with the club after completing a physical.
He said his agent had talked to some other teams about a contract during the season, but nothing had gotten as far as things did with Indianapolis, which dropped its playoff opener on Saturday in Buffalo.
After getting released by the Cardinals in the preseason, Benzinger, 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, continued to work on his game at the NFL Alumni Academy, a player development program that was founded last year.
“I learned a lot of different stuff,” Benzinger, 23, said. “More details whether it’s your hands or playing lower, things like that. It was a matter of isolating things in my game that may have been holding me back from getting that call.
“When I got the call from Indy, I was so ready to go.”
That was the mission of the academy, according to its executive director, who spoke to Front Office Sports in September.
“Our players are developing their skill sets. They’re working their technique,” Dean Dalton said. “They’re increasing their knowledge of the game, and now they can parlay that into a competitive advantage when they get into a practice squad situation or a competitive advantage to allow them to earn a spot on the active roster and play on game day.”
Dalton described the academy as a “bubble like” environment where players lived in a hotel, ate meals designed by an NFL nutritionist and worked out and attended meetings at Tom Benson Stadium.
““After the cuts happened at the end of training camp, we let the dust settle and evaluate who was released and who was signed back to practice squads. And from that remaining free agent list, our personnel department — who are all NFL-experienced and NFL veterans — we grade out all the players and rank them ourselves, much like a pro personnel department does for each team,” Dalton said.
Benzinger said he will return to Atlanta and work out at the facility where he readied himself for last spring’s draft and free agent signing period. The hope is that the Colts and other NFL teams will be able to start their offseason program on schedule in April.
He gave a lot of credit to his agent for finding a new landing spot in the NFL, but he also said the connections he made at the NFL Alumni Academy were a help.
“When my agent calls a personnel guy, and I have a reference like Mike Tice, who was an NFL player and coached in the league a long time and Anthony Munoz, who is in the Hall of Fame, that definitely helped a lot in terms of getting this opportunity,” Benzinger said.
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