Watson Brown knows an NFL-caliber wide receiver when he sees one. During the Tennessee Tech coach's three-plus decades in college football, he's come to recognize the qualities needed to play at the next level.
Tim Benford has those qualities, said Brown, who has coached numerous receivers who went on to the NFL. The best recent example is Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl wideout Roddy White, whom Brown coached at UAB.
"Tim's just got enough of the pieces," Brown said Monday. "He needed to have a good [senior] year, he needed to work harder and he did all of the things that I asked him to do."
Chattanooga was well represented at the East-West Shrine Game in Florida last month. Former McCallie and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman was there, as was Benford, a star at Red Bank High School before rewriting the record book at Tech.
Benford was a four-year starter at Tech and wrapped up his career as the Ohio Valley Conference offensive player of the year.
The Chattanoogans will be reunited in Indianapolis later this month for the NFL combine. The more high-profile Coleman got his invitation before Christmas. Benford, a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds, had to earn his at the Shrine game and the days of practice leading up to it.
Benford said he was surprised and very happy to get the invitation, but his goal for the week wasn't to earn a spot at the combine.
"I just wanted to prove to myself that I could play on that level, to play with all those guys [from bowl subdivision schools]," Benford said.
In the game, Benford and Coleman started for the East squad and Coleman's first pass was a screen to Benford that went for 9 yards. Later in the drive they connected on a crossing route for 27 yards.
Unfortunately for Benford, he didn't touch the ball again.
"I came out feeling like I had a good week, but I didn't get that much time in the game to perform like I wanted to," he said.
The challenge now for Benford and Coleman is to prepare for the combine. Benford is training in Naples, Fla., while Coleman is in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Benford had a very strong senior season with 65 receptions for 923 yards, and based on numerous reports from the Shrine game, he was the one of the better receivers there. The big thing now, Brown said, is for Benford to test well at the combine.
"I think he's down to where if he does well at the combine he's got a chance to make himself a lot of money," Brown said. "He's performed, they've seen him perform and now I think he's going to have to prove to them how fast he can run."
Benford is working on his shuttle and 40-yard runs in Naples, as well as every other aspect of being a receiver.
"I'm pretty much working on everything," he said. "There's kind of pressure, but it's really all what you put into it."
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.