Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin had just one reception in his first preseason game. But what a catch it was.
On the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Derek Anderson lobbed a pass from the Buffalo 29-yard-line to the left edge of the end zone. When Benjamin, who was running a go route, stepped on the heel of Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore, it appeared Anderson’s pass would fall incomplete. But somehow, despite stumbling inside the 5-yard line, the rookie wideout came down with the ball in the end zone.
Ironically, a player the Panthers drafted because “you can’t teach 6-5, 240,” caught his first pass as a pro about five inches off the grass.
“Derek threw a great ball and gave me a chance to make a play,” Benjamin said. “I got tangled with the corner but never took my eyes off the ball and made a play. In a split second, I just stuck my arms up between the ball and the ground, right before it hit the ground, and I caught it. It was crazy.”
On a scale of one-to-10, Benjamin put the level of difficulty at a seven.
His teammate, receiver Jerricho Cotchery, gave it a nine.
“I don’t even know how he tracked the ball at that point in time,” Cotchery said. “It was a great catch.”
Benjamin’s first reception in an NFL game was also the geometric opposite of his last catch at Florida State, a national championship-winning touchdown he snagged while leaping over Auburn’s Chris Davis.
“Those were the plays we saw him make,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “When he’s able to gather himself and make the play, that’s the kind of thing he does.”
Technically, Friday’s touchdown was Benjamin’s third at Bank of America Stadium. His other two came during Florida State’s route of Duke in December’s ACC Championship.
“It was great to be out here with the team, making plays,” Benjamin said. “I had a lot of fun. I had a great time. We put the ball in the end zone and made some plays as an offense which was our goal coming into the game.”