JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Arrelious Benn's kids have never seen him play. Neither of his daughters were born the last time a ball touched his hands in a meaningful game.
The former second round pick hasn't caught a regular season pass since September 30, 2012. He hasn't played in a regular season game since November 11 of that same year.
Since then he has suffered two knee injuries, a season-ending back injury, and a broken collarbone.
Injuries have robbed him of the prime of his career.
However, Benn's odyssey in the NFL has continued throughout the last four seasons. He has been with three NFL teams and has suffered season-ending injuries with each club.
On Sunday, the Jaguars wide receiver is expected to play in a regular season game for the first time in 46 months against the Green Bay Packers.
“Everything I went through was worth it,” Benn said with a smile after practice on Friday.
Benn has paid the price of being an NFL player more so than most. He has competed throughout the course of long summers to earn a roster spot, only to suffer injuries that wiped out any chance of hope.
From the end of his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to his injury-plagued stay with the Philadelphia Eagles to the disappointing end to his first year in Jacksonville, Benn has seen his career's rock bottom.
“It’s crazy man, everything happens for a reason,” Benn said. “I’ve been out for three years, but at the same time it built great character, I went through adversity with a lot of things. There were times where I felt like giving up but I kept going. It feels amazing – I don’t even know how it feels – it’s unreal. It’s like a dream come true thing for me.”
With his return to the regular season looming, Benn has done a lot of reflection. He still vividly remembers his last season in Tampa Bay.
“The last game I played in – that I remember - that was a real game was against the Washington Redskins when I was in Tampa,” Benn said.
“I was out there, made a couple of plays, I had a knee injury and I ended up going to [injured reserve] that year. I think I had a partially torn meniscus. I tried play through it but I ended up going on IR. Then the next year get traded to Philly and tear my ACL. Have [another] good offseason [in Philadelphia], come back and hurt my back. I sat out a year after I hurt my back, there was nothing I could do about it. Then I come here end up breaking my collarbone.”
While he has gained a reputation for being injury-prone, he made it through this offseason unscathed. Despite being let go during final cuts, he was re-signed one day later. He will now be part of an active roster during Week 1, something he has pushed for over the last four summers.
“It’s emotional, but it’s good emotion,” Benn said.
“I’m excited, I’m truly thankful and blessed and my hard work shows out there. I don’t know what I’m going to do – I may cry [on Sunday] – I don’t know. The last time I cried during a game is when I played USC in the Rose Bowl with Illinois [in college].”
Benn's head coach at the University of Illinois was Ron Zook. This weekend, Zook will be scheming against his former pupil as the Packers special teams coach.
“He had big impact on my life,” Benn said. “I haven’t seen Coach Zook since I left Illinois for the draft, so it’s exciting to have chance to see him, be around a guy like that. I love Coach Zook, he has a special place in my heart.”
While his emotions toward his return and his reunion with Zook will run high, his dedication to his team supersedes everything. He may be thrilled to be on the Jaguars roster, but he is also trying to get to back to where he was before the litany of injuries.
“I’ve still got that hunger, I’m not going to settle for this or be complacent,” Benn said. “I still want to get to where I want to be and be great.”
Benn celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday. His biggest present will be a return to the game he loves.
"I never once thought I wouldn't play again," Benn said. "The lesson learned is never give up on your dreams. You can either chase the lion or let the lion chase you."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.