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Regina Rams defensive lineman Bennett looking forward to practices at CFL combine

Anthony Bennett can't wait to hit the practice field at the CFL combine. The gregarious Regina Rams defensive lineman has no issues going through individual drills and testing.
University of Regina Rams defensive end Anthony Bennett (right) was ranked No. 13 on winter Scouting bureau's top-20 list heading into the CFL Combine in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Piper Sports Photography/Regina Rams **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Anthony Bennett can't wait to hit the practice field at the CFL combine.

The gregarious Regina Rams defensive lineman has no issues going through individual drills and testing. But his true passion is lining up in his stance, getting off the ball quickly and imposing his will on a rival offensive lineman.

And starting Friday, the six-foot-three, 230-pound Bennett will have ample opportunity to do just that at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium Field House. It will be the first of three straight practice days to conclude the combine.

"Oh yeah, I think that's the biggest opportunity to shine because you can't get anything better than old-fashioned competition," said the colourful Bennett. "Bottom line, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I want to compete at a high level.

"I want to win and I want to find people who want to win with me."

The 67 Canadians and 21 global players at the combine underwent medicals and individual testing Wednesday and Thursday. They'll don pads starting Friday with CFL coaches leading positional groups and installing offences and defences.

Bennett, 26, was a 2022 Canada West all-star and first-team All-Canadian after registering a Rams-record eight sacks during the regular season (he had another in the playoffs). He also tied a school mark for tackles for a loss (10.5) while adding 25.5 tackles (19 solo) and a 28-yard interception return TD.

Bennet was ranked No. 13 by the CFL Scouting Bureau in its winter list of the top-20 draft prospects. The league will hold both its Canadian and global drafts May 2.

Bennett comes by his football prowess honestly. His father, Charles, uncle, Tony, and cousin, Michael, are all former NFL players. Bennett's older brother, Andrew, played collegiately at Regina before signing with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.

While acknowledging his impressive football bloodlines, Bennett is anxious to blaze his own path.

"I've always wanted to prove myself," he said. "This (CFL combine) is a perfect opportunity and chance for me to.

"I love to compete and get after it."

A Florida native, Bennett has dual citizenship because his mother is Canadian.

Bennett is looking to show his versatility during the combine practices.

"I can be anything you need, I can usually be there on time and be ready to go," he said.

But that also means first being ready to put the best possible numbers in the individual testing.

"Honestly, I just can't wait to record my numbers and basically get the word out regarding how talented I really am," he said. Even if they (test results) don't represent who I am, then I also get a chance the next day to compete and get one-on-ones and get after it.

"It's a chance to see who's running, who's catching, who's hitting hard, who's (making stops). All of that good stuff."

Bennett made five starts in 2021 (he missed the season opener due to injury). He recorded 25 tackles (17 solo, 7.5 for a loss), two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Bennett headed to Regina after starting his college career at Florida Atlantic University.

And Bennett feels the presence of CFL coaches during the combine practices will only help the prospects.

"I think it's going to elevate things, quite frankly," he said. "When you have this many masterminds of the CFL looking for the best things, the best techniques ... they want to see you perform."

Bennett said he has an open mind regarding the May 2 draft and where he might end up.

"Any one of these nine teams, there are no favourites," he said. "I love the game of football, I'll go anywhere that gives me an opportunity."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press