NFL, don't dread Ced: Benson is his own man Walker Award winner dodging comparisons to idol Ricky Williams By CHIP BROWN / The Dallas Morning News AUSTIN – Cedric Benson heard even before Texas' season ended how he might be compared to Ricky Williams heading into April's NFL draft. If the comparisons were strictly on the field, that would be one thing. But Benson was hearing how teams – namely the Miami Dolphins with the No. 2 pick – might think Benson shared Williams' unpredictable personality. "I'm sure people looked at Ricky and then looked at me and said 'He's probably that way too,' " Benson said in December. "The funny thing is, if I cut my hair [dreadlocks], people would never make comparisons between me and him again. That's all it is." Benson says the similarities between himself and Williams end at the sidelines. To emphasize the point, Benson has shaved off his signature dreadlocks as he prepares to begin an NFL career. So Benson, who will receive the Doak Walker Award from the SMU Athletic Forum at a formal celebration tonight, began distancing himself from Williams, his idol on the field, earlier this month when he sheared off the trademark dreadlocks he's had since high school and put them in a Ziploc bag as "a keepsake." "It's something new. It's a change in my life. I just felt like a change," Benson said Saturday. "It's business too. I'm going into a job. I want to be as professional as I can and smooth out any wrinkles." The Dolphins have a need at running back since Williams deserted them before last season. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects Utah quarterback Alex Smith to go No. 1 to San Francisco and Benson to be selected No. 2 if Miami doesn't attempt to address running back in free agency. Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said new coach Nick Saban has so far declined comment about any players in the draft. If Benson, No. 6 on the NCAA's Division I-A career rushing list, were to be selected by the Dolphins, Benson knows all the draft-day stories would compare him to Williams, putting him in a harsh glare immediately. "It's probably something that will hang around for awhile," Benson said. "I've heard some of the gossip, and it sounds like some of the teams think we're identical in thoughts and spirit. But I'm a man on my own. People just have to find something to talk about. "Ricky's a guy I looked up to on the field. The decisions he made are the decisions he made. I make my own decisions. I don't have the same game plan he has. For starters, I'm ready to play football. I have a passion for the game. "Once everyone sits down with me, it's going to erase any negative thoughts they have of me." Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who turned down an offer to interview for the Dolphins' general manager job last year, said it would be ridiculous for teams to make Benson pay for the sins of Williams. "If Benson is good enough, he'll go where he's supposed to be taken," Wolf said. "Smart teams will evaluate Benson for Benson, and Ricky Williams – as good a player as he was – shouldn't have any effect on Cedric Benson." [Click image for a larger version] FILE 2003/AP FILE 2003/AP The Miami Dolphins lost out when Ricky Williams unexpectedly retired before the 2004 season. That's why they're scrutinizing Cedric Benson - who idolized Williams - as they decide how to use the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. Former Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com, said what could impact Benson the most is Benson's decision not to work out at the NFL combine later this month. Benson said, on the advice of his agent, Eugene Parker, he plans to attend the combine and go through interviews but not work out. Benson instead will work out for NFL personnel at Texas' pro timing day on March 23 in Austin. "If I don't have to work out in February, it just gives me more time to prepare for my workout in March," said Benson, who has dropped out of school and is training for the draft with Texas strength coach Bruce Johnson. Brandt said Benson is in a tight race with Auburn running backs Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown to be the first taken at their position. Brandt said Benson may already be behind Williams because Williams went to the Senior Bowl and Benson didn't. "Williams went to the Senior Bowl and had a great week of practice," Brandt said. "Right now, he's probably the first running back who will be drafted. If you're a good player, you shouldn't be afraid to show it." Brandt noted that Parker didn't let last year's Doak Walker Award winner, Chris Perry of Michigan, work out at the combine, and Perry wasn't selected until the bottom of the first round (No. 26 overall). "This draft, it's imperative that guys like Benson do everything possible to move up," Brandt said. "The agent doesn't go through the two-a-days for a player, he's just making money off of them. The draft is like a golf tournament, there's a big drop between first-place money and second-place money."