University of Texas football great and former NFL player Cedric Benson died Saturday night in a motorcycle crash in West Austin, family members and friends said early Sunday.
Austin emergency officials told the American-Statesman they had information that Benson and a passenger were killed in the crash, which happened in the 5600 block of Mount Bonnell Road after 10 p.m. Saturday. Two other adults suffered minor injuries, they said.
The Travis County medical examiner had not confirmed the identities of the victims as of Sunday afternoon.
Benson’s death touched off a flurry of emotional responses from his teammates and coaches. Former coach Mack Brown, who recruited Benson to Texas out of Midland Lee High School, expressed his condolences in a Twitter post. Brown then opened a news conference Sunday at North Carolina, where he’s currently the coach, with more remarks about his former player.
“Cedric was one of our favorites, mine and Sally’s,” Brown said. “He was a true spirit. One of the toughest players we’ve ever coached, if not the toughest.”
Current Longhorns coach Tom Herman issued a statement on Benson’s passing.
“It’s an unbelievably sad day with the news of the passing of Cedric Benson,” he said. “We lost a true Longhorn Legend, one of the best running backs in college football history and a really special man. He was far too young, and my heart aches for his family, friends and the entire Longhorn community. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.”
Hours before he died, Benson, 36, posted a photo of a BMW motorcycle on his Instagram account with the caption “My Saturday Evening.”
Austin police Sgt. Eric Wilson said at the scene Saturday night that the motorcycle was traveling west on RM 2222 when a white minivan pulled out from Mount Bonnell Road. The impact sparked a fire, he said.
Wilson said a preliminary investigation indicates that speed may have been a factor in the crash, which happened at the bottom of a hill.
“Unfortunately this area has really poor visibility so if you aren’t really careful or you are going slightly over the speed limit, it is very difficult to stop,” Wilson said.
Neighbors on Sunday said the intersection can be dangerous. The north portion of Mount Bonnell Road sits at the bottom of a hill on RM 2222 and can be blind for drivers pulling out and heading east.
One resident, who did not want to be identified, said he’s lived at his West Austin home for seven years and gets scared every time he has to pull out from the road and east onto RM 2222.
The man said he did not see the crash but did hear it. He said motorcycles are often heard driving up and down the road.
On Sunday morning, several people were gathered at Benson’s West Austin home on West Courtyard Drive and appeared to be mourning outside on a patio. A Facebook post from Benson’s relative, Dominic Benson, read, “No no no no no no God no!!!! Why him man!!!!! Not Ced man.”
Benson, a running back who played for the Longhorns from 2001 to 2004, accumulated the second-most rushing yards in the program’s history and topped 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons. He captured the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back in his senior season in 2004 and finished with the sixth most votes for the Heisman Trophy. The next year, the Chicago Bears took him No. 4 overall in the NFL draft. Benson went on to play eight seasons in the league, totaling 6,017 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. He last played in 2012 with the Green Bay Packers after playing four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and three with Chicago.
After his career ended, Benson transitioned to business development with Gold Financial Services, according to the website for Benson’s charity. The charity, Nurturing Underprivileged Families Cultivating Educational Development — NUFCED — provides mentoring to children through school and community programs across Texas.
Benson’s death came three days after he appeared in a Travis County courtroom and was found guilty of the lesser charge of obstruction of a passageway in connection to a 2017 drunken-driving arrest in downtown Austin. County Court-at-Law Judge Kim Williams sentenced Benson to two days in jail and credited him for the two days he served after his arrest.
It was the third time Benson had faced charges for driving or boating while intoxicated. He never was convicted for any of those charges.
Benson’s longtime lawyer, Sam Bassett, sent a text message to the Statesman on Sunday morning about his relationship with Benson.
“Cedric was not just a client, he was my friend,” Bassett said. “He was immensely talented and fierce on the football field yet most have no idea the difficulties he overcame to achieve what he did. Though imperfect in some respects, once Cedric was your friend you understood how kind, sensitive and loyal he was as a man. He was like a younger brother or nephew to me. I will miss him very much.”
Ricky Williams, the only Longhorn who has rushed for more yards at UT than Benson, posted on Instagram that Benson is “one of the greatest to have played for the University of Texas.”