PHILADELPHIA ( - Once upon a time before Michael Bennett was Michael Bennett, the star defensive lineman was a 23-year-old unknown in Tampa when some pretty big names took an interest in his future.

"I had a chance to be in Tampa and talk to great players like Warren Sapp and Derek Brooks and Ronde Barber all the time and learn how to be a leader," Bennett said at his introductory press conference in South Philadelphia on Monday.

Fast forward a decade and Bennett has gone from undrafted Houston kid trying to get noticed to accomplished 32-year-old man with three Pro-Bowl selections and a Super Bowl title on his resume as the best defensive lineman on the best defense of the generation.

And he sees his job description as a tenured veteran reaching far beyond setting the edge or getting Eli Manning off his spots a little early.

In Seattle it was helping turn a gamble like Frank Clark into one of the better young pass rushers in football and now that he's with the Eagles, Bennett realizes what's he's here for: produce on the field of course but also help defensive line coach Chris Wilson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz put the finishing touches on promising second-year player Derek Barnett.

And that kind of role is something Bennett has embraced since being taught to pay it forward in Tampa by Hall of Famers like Sapp and Brooks.

"Now I have the opportunity be able to be a leader and to help a young guy like that,” Bennett said when asked by about mentoring Barnett.

“The funniest thing is I was watching [Barnett’s] tape. The first thing he said when he came to the NFL was that I was one of his favorite players,” Bennett said. “I’m looking like, ‘Damn, am I that old?’ Now you come back another year, and I have the opportunity to play with him.”

Age jokes aside Bennett now has the opportunity to add to the legacy section of that already impressive resume.

“I want to help him come to peace with the decisions he makes around the league. To be able to talk to him about the run game, the passing game and some of the things that I’ve been through as a player,” Bennett explained. “It’s important. That’s what I love about the NFL, the chance you get to mold young men to become greater men. It’s something that I look forward to every single season."

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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