Lafayette's Maurice Bennett and Blake Costanzo
May 2, 2006
For four years, Maurice Bennett and Blake Costanzo played side-by-side as Lafayette College linebackers.
This week, Bennett and Costanzo are parting company but for a good reason. They both signed National Football League free agent contracts -- Bennett with the Chicago Bears and Costanzo with the New York Jets.
Bennett, born and raised in Philadelphia, was hoping his hometown Eagles would show more interest in him but Andy Reid's club indicated it wasn't bringing in linebackers.
"The Chicago Bears are now my favorite team," said Bennett, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound middle linebacker who earned every Division I-AA All America honor possible this past season. "Walton Payton was one of my all-time favorite players and my high school coach (Bill Singletary) is a cousin of (former Bears linebacker) Mike Singletary."
Costanzo, from Franklin Lakes, N.J., said signing with the Jets is a dream come true.
"I always was a Jets and Giants fan but more of a Jets fan," said the 6-1, 235-pound Costanzo. "My uncle has had Jets season tickets for five years but never went. Now, he has a reason to go to the games."
Bennett credited his agent, Ed Wasielewski of International Sports in Philadelphia, for getting him signed with the Bears, who didn't see the Leopard work out in person. Bennett believes he fits the mold of a Bears linebacker.
"They don't pay attention to your height like some other teams," Bennett said. "They have a number of linebackers in the 6-foot, 6-1 range. They look at how well you run."
Costanzo also drew attention from the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers but said the Jets, under new coach Eric Mangini , showed the most interest.
"They all liked my tape," said Costanzo, who credited his agent, Art Weiss, and Lafayette defensive coordinator John Loose, for touting his credentials with the Jets. "I think it helped I got to do a lot of different stuff playing (strong side) linebacker. I'm just hoping to get on the field to play special teams."
Costanzo said fellow Leopard senior Shane Davenport was instrumental in working out with him, Bennett and Canadian Football League draftee Andrew Brown as they prepared for pro workouts.
"He didn't have to do it but he really wanted to see us get signed," said Costanzo of Davenport, who intends to become a sports trainer after graduation.