Arrelious Benn spends Thursday night waiting for call that never came

By Zach Berman and Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Former Illinois and Dunbar wide receiver Arrelious Benn couldn't take his eyes off the flat screen TV that tormented him Thursday night, even after New Orleans made the 32nd and final first round pick of the 2010 NFL Draft without calling his name. Denise Benn couldn't take her eyes off her son as the party that drew more than 50 family and friends ended without celebration.

Arrelious had every intention of waking up Friday morning with an itinerary for his future NFL city. Instead, he had to wait at least one more day to begin his professional career.

"Honestly, I think I'm holding up good," Arrelious said minutes after the first round concluded. "I thought I'd be a little bit madder than what I am. I'm here with my family, friends and supporters."

None of the two dozen people crammed into a room on the ground level of a two-story private residence on an estate in Upper Marlboro that Arrelious's promoters had rented out for the night spoke a word. Denise left the room repeatedly as the first round waned. She said the heat, the anticipation and the sight of her son's cell phone remaining silent was too much to bear.

"I continuously stared at him, trying to feel his energy," Denise said. "As a mother, when you can't feel anything in your son, that's scary."

Five hours earlier, two ESPN camera crew members explained to Denise how the night would proceed. A camera would be on Arrelious at all times. After he was picked, a live shot would portray the excitement in the room. Arrelious might even be asked to do an interview.

That all sounded great to Denise, who was scheduled to catch a noon flight Friday out of Baltimore-Washington International and head to Champaign, Ill. for the Illinois spring game on Saturday. Trulon Henry, Arrelious's step-brother, plays safety for the Illini.

But Arrelious wasn't picked Thursday night. Consequently, Denise will watch the second and third rounds of the draft from a hotel room 700 miles from the District.

"It's not shocking because he didn't get picked," Denise said. "It's shocking because of some of the choices that were made" by NFL teams throughout the first round.

Arrelious sat next to his girlfriend, Chelsea Gordon, on a two-person couch during the draft surrounded by family. After the 15th pick, Arrelious retreated for a few minutes to another room with business manager K.J. Hughes. At one point, Henry joked, "do you have the phone on vibrate?" The phone never rang.

The hats of 10 teams sat on a table along the far wall of the room. One by one, Arrelious watched his peers adorn hats of those same teams, while his remained untouched.

Arrelious stayed composed during picks, reacting only with claps and headshakes. No wide receiver was selected when the Denver Broncos took Demaryius Thomas with the 22nd pick. The room kept quiet except for one spectator calling it "stupid."

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