Cornelius Bennett‘s lunging body is the first thing visitors see when they step foot inside Tuscaloosa’s Paul W. Bryant Museum. Artist Daniel Moore’s portrait of Bennett’s famous play in the 1986 Alabama-Notre Dame game, forever referred to as “The Sack,” sits in many homes throughout the state of Alabama.
Steve Beuerlein has a copy of it, and he was the Notre Dame quarterback being sacked on the play. Even former Alabama head coach Ray Perkins takes a peak at it every day. It’s as memorable a play in Alabama Crimson Tide history as George Teague’s “The Strip” or Van Tiffin’s “The Kick.”
“I see it right now,” Perkins told AL.com. “It’s on my wall in my home today.”
That memorable play took place in Birmingham more than 35 years ago, and Cornelius Bennett has since gone on to become an Alabama legend, produce a successful NFL career and even had a family.
Now, Bennett spends his days watching his son continue his legacy as a hard-hitting SEC linebacker.
Cornelius Bennett’s College and NFL Careers
Cornelius O’Landa Bennett blossomed into a three-time First-Team All-American for the Tide from 1984-86. “Biscuit” was a three-time All-SEC defender who also won the 1986 SEC Player of the Year, Lombardi Award and came in seventh in Heisman Trophy voting.
The Indianapolis Colts drafted him with the second pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, making him the school’s highest draft pick since the New York Jets took Joe Namath 12th overall in 1965.
He became known as a sack artist in the National Football League, too.
The Colts drafted him then traded the rookie to the Buffalo Bills in a deal that involved sending running back Eric Dickerson to the Colts and Greg Bell to the Los Angeles Rams.
Across 14 NFL seasons, Bennett tallied 71.5 sacks, 31 forced fumbles, 27 fumble recoveries, seven interceptions and three touchdowns with the Colts, Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. The feared 240-pound outside linebacker became a five-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time First-Team All-Pro player and two-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Bennett also played in five Super Bowls but lost every single one of them. He was on the Bills teams that went to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s. He also lost one with the Falcons in 1998. Oddly enough, Bennett is tied with Glenn Parker for the NFL record for most Super Bowl losses without a win.
Bennett’s pro career didn’t come without controversy. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a woman and served 60 days in jail. In 2021, he was accused of sexual assault in the summer of 1992, which was a separate incident from the 1997 incident. He denied the accusation in a statement to The Buffalo News.
Now, the former football player’s awaiting entry to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bennett was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Where is Cornelius Bennett Now?
Bennett retired from the game of football after the 2000 season. He briefly worked as the chairman of the NFLPA’s former board of directors. He hosts an annual charity golf tournament. He told Tide 100.9 in 2019 he was working on becoming a deacon of his church.
The Birmingham native who attended Ensley High School moved to Hollywood, Florida, where the 56-year-old retired with his wife, Kimberly. They have three children — two daughters, Arianna and Kimmeko, and a son, Kivon.
“I know I played in Buffalo and Atlanta has pretty warm weather but I hate cold weather all together. My wife wants to move back to Atlanta but I am a year-around, short-pants man,” the five-time Pro Bowler told AJC.com.
Bennett is also pretty active on Twitter. You can find him here.
Bennett’s Son is a NCAA Linebacker, Too
You didn’t think Cornelius Bennett’s son didn’t play football, too, did you?
Kivon Bennett became a three-star defensive lineman recruit at the storied St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. He received offers from Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, and ultimately chose the football team in Knoxville over his father’s alma mater.
Kivon enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, he played in 13 games and racked up 27 tackles (six for loss) and two sacks.
Bennett admitted to wearing the Volunteers’ orange and white colors when his son’s team comes to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Yes, this Alabama legend swaps rooting interests every Third Saturday in October.
“To walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium as a fan of the opposing team going against my team was something strange,” Cornelius Bennett told WNSP-FM 105.5 in 2018.Advertisement
But there’s still one thing the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame member and former Buffalo Bills linebacker will never do as long as he lives.
“The only thing I told my son and Butch Jones when he was the head coach at Tennessee, the one thing I won’t do, and have not done as of yet, is sing Rocky Top,” Bennett said.
That’s a true University of Alabama legend right there.
Kivon announced he was transferring to Arkansas State, where Butch Jones is the head coach, in 2021. He was kicked off the Vols following an arrest in 2020 on a drug charge and a possession of a firearm.