CFL Hall of Famer Al Benecick dead at 78

Al BenecickAl Benecick — the only player in football history to block for legendary running backs George Reed and Jim Brown — died Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla. He was 78.

Benecick played at Syracuse University, where Brown starred before joining the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Benecick became a Saskatchewan Roughrider during the 1959 season, following a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles (who had selected him in the sixth round of that year’s NFL draft).

He became a fixture on Saskatchewan’s offensive line, of which he was a member until the conclusion of the 1968 CFL season. He wrapped up his playing career in 1969, when he had a four-game stint with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Benecick was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Five years earlier, he had entered the Roughriders’ Plaza of Honor.

Benecick was part of formidable Saskatchewan offensive line that helped the team win its first-ever Grey Cup in 1966, courtesy of a 29-14 victory over the Ottawa Rough Riders.

In that game, Reed rushed for 133 yards, including a 31-yard major that effectively sealed the landmark victory for Saskatchewan. Benecick threw a key block on that play.

“What made him good was that he loved the game and he loved hitting people,” Reed recalled Wednesday. “I think he got the biggest joy when he would pull out and go around and look for somebody to hit.

“I think he would be very disappointed when he couldn’t find anybody to hit. He was a competitor and the one thing a running back like me always appreciated was that you knew he was going to hit somebody. It could be the wrong guy once in a while, but you knew that he was going to hit somebody.

“That’s what I put the stock in. You knew that he was going to play and he was going to play hard. The tougher the game was, the more he enjoyed it.”

Benecick also enjoyed his only CFL touchdown, scored in 1966 when he returned a fumble 40 yards to paydirt — steamrolling a would-be tackler, Ed Ulmer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, en route to the end zone.

“On the football field (Benecick) was very ferocious, but off the football field he was a very kind and respectful guy,” Reed said. “Nobody would ever know that if they just watched him on the sideline and on the field.

“He was very well-spoken and articulate and he showed a lot of respect for people around him when he was off the football field.”

Benecick was a Western Conference all-star at offensive tackle in 1963 before moving to guard the following season. He was a CFL and Western all-star guard in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

Benecick was born in Oyster Bay, N.Y. He spent a considerable portion of his post-football career living in Regina, where he was employed for 15 years by the Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation. He retired from that position in the early 1990s.

The Roughriders announced Benecick’s death on Wednesday. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Al Benecick — the only player in football history to block for legendary running backs George Reed and Jim Brown — died Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla. He was 78.

Benecick played at Syracuse University, where Brown starred before joining the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Benecick became a Saskatchewan Roughrider during the 1959 season, following a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles (who had selected him in the sixth round of that year’s NFL draft).

He became a fixture on Saskatchewan’s offensive line, of which he was a member until the conclusion of the 1968 CFL season. He wrapped up his playing career in 1969, when he had a four-game stint with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Benecick was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Five years earlier, he had entered the Roughriders’ Plaza of Honor.

Benecick was part of formidable Saskatchewan offensive line that helped the team win its first-ever Grey Cup in 1966, courtesy of a 29-14 victory over the Ottawa Rough Riders.

In that game, Reed rushed for 133 yards, including a 31-yard major that effectively sealed the landmark victory for Saskatchewan. Benecick threw a key block on that play.

“What made him good was that he loved the game and he loved hitting people,” Reed recalled Wednesday. “I think he got the biggest joy when he would pull out and go around and look for somebody to hit.

“I think he would be very disappointed when he couldn’t find anybody to hit. He was a competitor and the one thing a running back like me always appreciated was that you knew he was going to hit somebody. It could be the wrong guy once in a while, but you knew that he was going to hit somebody.

“That’s what I put the stock in. You knew that he was going to play and he was going to play hard. The tougher the game was, the more he enjoyed it.”

Benecick also enjoyed his only CFL touchdown, scored in 1966 when he returned a fumble 40 yards to paydirt — steamrolling a would-be tackler, Ed Ulmer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, en route to the end zone.

“On the football field (Benecick) was very ferocious, but off the football field he was a very kind and respectful guy,” Reed said. “Nobody would ever know that if they just watched him on the sideline and on the field.

“He was very well-spoken and articulate and he showed a lot of respect for people around him when he was off the football field.”

Benecick was a Western Conference all-star at offensive tackle in 1963 before moving to guard the following season. He was a CFL and Western all-star guard in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

Benecick was born in Oyster Bay, N.Y. He spent a considerable portion of his post-football career living in Regina, where he was employed for 15 years by the Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation. He retired from that position in the early 1990s.

The Roughriders announced Benecick’s death on Wednesday. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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