Former Giants TE Martellus Bennett will play for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI:
HOUSTON – You can argue who the best, most productive, or most valuable player in Super Bowl LI is, but Martellus Bennett has clinched the title of most entertaining participant.
The New England Patriots tight end – who played for the Giants in 2012 – has been a favorite of the media this week as he has humorously riffed on numerous subjects, including art, literature, rap music, horror movies, and whether he should eat fried food at his favorite local restaurant. Bennett, who often calls himself "the Black Unicorn", attended high school in Houston, and his ties to the area are another reason only Tom Brady has drawn larger crowds at the Patriots' interview sessions.
New England has 23 players who suited up for its Super Bowl XLIX victory against Seattle two years ago, but Bennett will try to win the first championship of his nine-year career when the Patriots face the Atlanta Falcons Sunday in NRG Stadium. So, was he dreaming about joining a perennial winner like the Patriots?
"I'm still dreaming of wizards and dragons," Bennett said. "I was thinking about going back to school this offseason to get a degree, but the only school I really want to attend is Hogwarts. Once you start playing in the NFL, everyone's goal is the Super Bowl. That's the only reason you play. Nothing else really matters. That's the only reason you play the game, to get to the Super Bowl. I think everyone in the NFL shares that dream of winning this game. The thing is, only two teams get to do it a year."
Hype Week kicked off Monday night with Super Bowl Opening Night at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Eleven podiums were set up for heavy hitters like Bill Belichick, Chris Long, and Brady. Somehow, Bennett didn't merit one, and conducted his interview standing on the field, surrounded on all sides by a crowd of reporters five deep.
"I guess they needed to spread the awesomeness around," he said.
Bennett founded a company, Imagination Agency, through which he has released a series of children's books. You know those talking head shots the networks use to present the players on national telecasts? When the Patriots opened their season on a Sunday night in Arizona, Bennett didn't mention his alma mater, Texas A&M, but instead introduced himself as, "Martellus Bennett, Imagination Agency."
Bennett's older brother, Michael, is a defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks, which defeated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII and lost to the Patriots the following year. The first of those games was played in MetLife Stadium, but Bennett didn't actually see his brother earn a ring.
"I never actually went into the stadium," Bennett said. "I saw him after the game and everything. My wife was pregnant at the time, so I didn't want her sitting in the stands, because I didn't want to have to deal with her. Dealing with a pregnant wife in the stadium with all these people, and there's so many hormones. You can't really enjoy the game. She might want a pickle, then she wants popcorn. Then, she wants ice cream, and you have to go get it because she can't really walk because she wants to wear heels because they're sexy, but her feet hurt. You try and tell her to put on some New Balances because they're nice or something like that and they're comfortable. Then, they don't look as good with her clothes. I don't know. That's a football game in itself."
Bennett, who starred at nearby Texas A&M, was a third-round draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. He scored four touchdowns as a rookie, none in the next three seasons, and joined the Giants as a free agent prior to the 2012 season. He started every game and caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five scores for a Giants team that finished 9-7. But he left to join the Chicago Bears for three years before the Patriots traded for him in 2016.
Though his stay was brief, Bennett has favorable memories of his Giants season.
"The biggest thing with the Giants was the food," Bennett said. "It was delicious. They did a great job with the food up there. The Giants was a big part of my life because it was the first chance I had to become a starting tight end. That was the year that I started. Everything that I saw and had learned from the years before, I started to do it in my own way. I kind of crafted myself into a player. Eli (Manning) was a great quarterback to play with. He taught me a lot and learned a lot from him. Ahmad Bradshaw, Will Beatty, all my teammates that are still up there. I saw Osi (Umenyiora) yesterday, Justin Tuck.
"It was a great time, especially because it was my second year of being married. New York is a great place to be in your second year of marriage, because there is so much to do. As far as getting into art, it was a place where I created my first animated piece. I did the thing where I caught the fan and fell from the stairs that one time. It made me feel that I could be everything and anything I wanted to be. I loved the team with (assistant general manager) Kevin Abrams and (general manager) Jerry Reese and the Mara and Tisch families. If there was some art thing going on in the city, they made sure there was a memo in my locker. They were like, 'Hey, there's an art thing in the city, I know you love art.' It was a big year of coming into myself as a human being."
After playing for one Super Bowl-winning coach in Tom Coughlin – whose Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI – Bennett now plays for Bill Belichick, who hopes to win his fifth title on Sunday.
"I think there's some similarities between them in terms of structures and stuff like that," Bennett said. "Except Coughlin had Coughlin time. That was crazy to me at first. I was like, 'The meeting is at three,' and everyone is like, 'You're late.' I'm like, 'I'm not late, it's at three.' They were like, 'We have to be there five minutes ahead of time.' I was like, 'That was not in my introduction packet.' He'll give you a pass at first. I got to play for Mike Pope, who is one of the greatest tight end coaches I've ever played with. I learned so much about the history of the game, because he's been around for such a long time. Same thing with Bill. He teaches a lot of history about football. There's a lot of things I've learned from Bill. Tom was the same way."
On Sunday, he hopes to be like both of them and experience the joy of winning a Super Bowl.
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