INDIANAPOLIS — Benny Snell Jr. once thought he might be a Buckeye.
But when Ohio State’s interest in the Westerville Central product waned, Snell went to Kentucky. He has no regrets. He reveled in helping revive what had been a dormant Wildcats program and is now poised for an NFL career.
Snell became Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher and closed his career in style. He ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns and carried eight straight times to run out the clock in the Wildcats’ 27-24 Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State to cap Kentucky’s first 10-win season since 1977.
“That was the Disney ending,” Snell said Thursday at the NFL combine. “That was the ending I was looking for my whole career. I broke every record you could break.
“I’m just a guy who’s all about drive. I set my goals and if I don’t achieve them, I’m not going to be happy.”
In interviews with NFL teams, he doesn’t shy away from sharing lofty goals for his pro career.
“My answers are usually I want to have a few Super Bowls under my belt,” he said. “I want to be a Pro Bowler. I want to say I’m able to be blessed enough to be a Hall of Famer. I want to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. I want to be a starter. I just go down the line and they’re impressed.”
That’s quite a list, but Snell is used to exceeding expectations. He was a three-star recruit out of high school. He said that Ohio State recruited him early but didn’t offer a scholarship.
Asked how much that drove him, Snell replied, “It was big. That’s the main story of Benny right there. (Jim) Tressel was the guy. I was rocking with Tressel. They were recruiting me heavy.
“Urban Meyer came in and it was over with. It was downhill from there. It was a blessing because I went to Kentucky, and Kentucky was really my home.”
He became the first Wildcats freshman ever to run for 1,000 yards. He and Herschel Walker are the only two running backs in Southeastern Conference history to run for at least 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in each of their first three seasons.
“You can’t measure a person’s heart,” Snell said. “When they put the three stars on me when I came out of high school, I eventually was a freshman All-American my first year, and a lot of five-stars weren’t getting playing time.”
One of those was Alabama’s Damien Harris, who did eventually blossom into a star. Snell earned Harris’ respect.
“Benny Snell is a great player,” Harris said at the combine. “Nobody can deny that. Nobody can take that away from him. His accomplishments along with the rest of the team the last three years have been remarkable.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists Snell as the ninth-best running back in the draft. Snell isn’t the flashiest, but his toughness and consistency will be attractive to teams.
Snell’s great-uncle, former Buckeye Matt Snell, was a star on the New York Jets’ Super Bowl III championship team. Snell’s father was a star at Ohio Northern.
“It’s crazy because it really runs in the family — that low base, the way we move our hips, the way we make our cuts,” Snell said. “I watch (my great-uncle) and watch my dad and myself, and it’s all similar.”
Snell now wants to uphold his family’s football reputation.
“I’ve got to sustain (it),” he said. “Then I have to get multiple rings.”