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Kevin Schnepf, Published October 08 2010

Where are they now?: Bennett set to make return to Concordia

Barry Bennett, known for his NFL-football playing days, will return to Concordia College this weekend as a wrestler.

The 1978 Concordia graduate, who was an NFL defensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets in the 1980s, will present Concordia wrestler Phil Moenkedick his national championship ring during halftime of Saturday’s Cobber-Carleton football game.

Bennett will also receive a national championship ring. He was a three-time national wrestling champion at Concordia.

“Concordia was a fantastic time in my life,” Bennett said. “I was this scared little 18-year-old, 220-pound kid who was hoping he could play football at Concordia. Lots of good things happened.”

Not only did Bennett win three wrestling championships, he went on to become a dominating defensive lineman for Jim Christopherson’s Cobber football team. He was good enough to be drafted in the third round by the Saints.

Now 54 years old, Bennett has been a high school physical education teacher in his hometown of Long Prairie, Minn., for the last 19 years.

“I learned that there is absolutely no relationship between money and happiness and fame and happiness,” Bennett said, referring to his NFL experience. “Now I’m making a whopping $50,000 a year and I am happy as can be. Some of these guys in the NFL are making so much money, but their lives were falling apart in front of them.”

When he’s not teaching, Bennett is probably bowhunting. And during the summer, he operates a tree removal business.

It’s quite a change from his NFL playing days – when he was part of the 1980 Saints that lost 14 straight games.

“That was horrible,” Bennett said. “We found every way in the world possible to lose. If I had been a veteran and experienced any NFL success, that’s the only way that year could have been worse.”

Bennett found success with the Jets, playing in the defensive line between standouts Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau. He was on three teams that reached the playoffs – including the 1982 AFC championship in which they lost to Miami.

“My wife and family had airplane tickets purchased for a trip to Pasadena for the Super Bowl,” Bennett said. “We came close.”

Bennett and his wife Carol became grandparents 14 months ago. The have four adult children and two adopted teenage boys still living at home.

He still keeps tabs on how the Cobbers football team is doing. But Bennett says he rarely attends athletic events.

“That’s my philosophy … if I have a choice of doing something or watching something, I will do something,” he said.