Jim Benton (American football)

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Jim Benton
No. --
Wide Receiver
Personal information
Date of birth: (1916-09-25)September 25, 1916
Place of birth: Carthage, Arkansas
Date of death: March 28, 2001(2001-03-28) (aged 84)
Place of death: Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school: Fordyce (AR)
College: Arkansas
NFL Draft: 1938 / Round: 2 / Pick: 11
Debuted in 1938 for the Cleveland Rams
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Stats at NFL.com
Stats at pro-football-reference.com
Stats at DatabaseFootball.com

James Warren Benton (September 25, 1916 – March 28, 2001) was a record setting Arkansas, Southwest Conference, NCAA and National Football League pass receiver who was selected for the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team. Benton was the first NFL receiver to gain more than 300 yards in a game, a record that stood for 40 years.

College career[edit]

In 1934, he began his college career at Arkansas and set receiving records unheard of at the time. In 1936, Arkansas defeated Texas 6-0 on a Benton touchdown reception and won its first official Southwest Conference championship.[1] In spite of his sophomore year statistics not being included, he finished his career with 83 receptions for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns. Despite fewer games and shorter period of sports eligibility compared to today (as well as less emphasis on passing in the era), his receiving statistics stand as the 12th best career total among Razorbacks.[2] His 48 receptions remained a SWC record until 1963 and an Arkansas record until 1971. In spite of playing more than 70 years ago, he still ranks among the career receiving leaders in the history of Arkansas football.

Benton was selected to several All-America teams following the 1937 season when he led the NCAA in receptions. In 1937, he set the NCAA record in pass receiving with 48 catches for 814 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was all SWC in 1936 and 1937. In 1937, he received the Houston Post Award as the outstanding player of the year in the Southwest Conference, was named first team All American by the North American Newspaper Alliance and was a member of the College All Star team. He was selected to the Arkansas All-Century team in 1994.[3]

Benton also lettered in basketball for the Razorbacks in 1937 and 1938, with the team winning the 1938 Southwest Conference title.[4]

Professional career[edit]

Benton began his NFL career in 1938 with the Cleveland Rams, an NFL expansion team, after being drafted number 11 in the second round. He had a nine-year career, all with the Rams except for one year with the Chicago Bears. In 1941, he dropped out of pro football to coach high school football at Fordyce, Arkansas but returned to the Rams in 1942. In his first season with the Rams, he led the league with 19.9 average yards per catch, and was third in both receiving yards and touchdowns. He was named to the 1939 Pro Bowl team after leading the league with seven touchdown receptions. In 1943 due to the depletion of players called to military service, the Rams disbanded, and Benton who had been rejected for military service due to a heart murmur, was loaned to the Chicago Bears. During the season, he caught two touchdown passes to help Sid Luckman set the NFL single game record of seven touchdowns in defeating the New York Giants and caught a touchdown pass in Chicago’s world championship victory over the Washington Redskins.

In 1944, back with the Rams, Benton made NFL history by catching 8 consecutive passes for 3 TD’s against the Cardinal-Steelers. At season's end, he was the second ranked receiver behind fellow Arkansas native Don Hutson.

In 1945, in spite of playing only nine games, Benton ended the season leading the NFL with 1,087 yards receiving. He had 45 receptions and eight touchdowns. He averaged 118.6 yards receiving a game with his longest reception for 84 yards and a TD. He went over 100 yards receiving in six of his nine games. His most notable game was on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions, catching ten Bob Waterfield passes for 303 yards, helping the Rams win the divisional title. This broke Hutson’s single game record and stood as the NFL single game record for over 40 years. Benton had nine receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Ram’s 15-14 victory over the Redskins in the World Championship game.

In 1946, Benton led the NFL with 63 receptions and with 981 yards receiving. During the season his most notable game was against the New York Giants when he had twelve receptions for 202 yards.

Benton was the top ranked NFL receiver in 1945 and 1946. He was consensus all-NFL in 1945 and 1946 and second team All Pro in 1939 and 1944. He was ranked among the NFL’s top five receivers in six of his nine seasons.

When he retired in 1947, Benton was the second leading receiver in pro football history with 288 receptions for 4,801 yards and 45 touchdowns. He had at least 11 games over 100 yards receiving (according to The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia Second Edition), including a 300 yard game and a 200 yard game. He averaged 533 yards per season and 55 yards per game. Benton played on two world championships, 1943 with the Chicago Bears and 1945 with the Cleveland Rams. He led every major receiving category in the NFL at least once. After having retired about 65 years ago, he remains in the career top 10 major receiving[5] and scoring[6] categories for the Rams franchise.

In 2008, sports historian, writer, statistician, and archivist Sean Lahman had Benton ranked as 54th best wide receiver in the history of the NFL in his award-winning book "The Pro Football Historical Abstract / A Hardcore Fan's Guide to All-Time Player Rankings".

Coaching career[edit]

In 1948, Benton helped coach the Ram receivers, including future Hall of Famer Tom Fears. Also, in later years, at the request of George Halas, he helped coach the Bears' receivers.

From 1951 to 1953, Benton was head coach of the Arkansas A&M (now University of Arkansas at Monticello), leading the team to their first ever Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference title in 1953 with a record of 7-1,[7] and was named the AIC coach of the year in 1953 by the Arkansas Democrat.[8]

After coaching, Benton went into the oil business.[9]

Hall of Fame[edit]

Benton was inducted into the Dallas County Sports Hall of Fame, the UAM Sports Hall of Fame, The Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor [10] , The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame,[11] and, in 1997 was named a Living Legend of Southeast Conference football. He was named to the Arkansas Razorback All Century Team, the Rams All Time Team and the NFL Hall of Fame 1940's All Decade Team.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dan Daly & Bob O’Donnel: The Pro Football Chronicle, (1990).
  • Bob Carroll: Total Football II, HarperCollins, 1999.
  • Sean Lahman: The Pro Football Historical Abstract / A Hardcore Fan's Guide to All-Time Player Rankings, The Lyons Press, Guilford (CT), 2008 (p. 168).
  • Michael McCambridge: ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, ESPN Books, 2005.
  • The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, Second Edition, 2007.
  • Richard Whittingham: What a Game They Played, Harper and Row, 1984.
  • Orville Henry and Jim Bailey: A Story of Arkansas Football, 1996.
  • University of Arkansas Razorback Football Guide.
  • Sid Luckman: Passing for Touchdowns, Ziff Davis, 1948.

External links[edit]

Records
Preceded by
Don Hutson
NFL single-game receiving record
November 22, 1945 – December 22, 1985
Succeeded by
Stephone Paige